Raw deal: Thai buffet fans fume after sushi chain’s vanishing act

Buffet lovers confused by the sudden disappearance of a popular Japanese buffet chain should not log out of its app or risk losing their unused vouchers, its developer said.

After all 27 branches of Daruma Sushi closed without notice and removed its socials from the net, a former tech specialist who worked on the restaurant’s membership app said fans unhappy it did not offer refunds for their pre-paid vouchers risk losing their benefits.

“Daruma doesn’t have e-vouchers now,” app developer Amawali Combi wrote online. “Coupon numbers will show in the app, but if you log out, it will become zero. The evidence will disappear, and you won’t be able to log in because the system is completely shut out of concern that people will buy more, and there will be more losses.”

Since Friday, visits to Daruma Sushi’s various outlets have been greeted by signs saying there was no service due to a “server breakdown.”

At a branch located at Chulalongkorn University’s I’m Park, a letter of apology was posted on the front door stating that due to the “war in Russia-Ukraine, the price of salmon has increased” and vowing that it would switch to “frozen salmon” to lower costs.

Customers wondered how they would be able to redeem pre-paid vouchers bought through various platforms. Some customers reportedly bought as many as 10 vouchers since they were valid for up to six months.

While the disappearance of the chain’s website and Facebook page has left customers no way to get help, what seems to be an older Facebook page was bombarded with comments on its top, pinned post from September 2016.

“You should come out and claim responsibility. Those who bought coupons find it hard to earn money. Don’t think about cheating others, this is evil!” Yupin Sukdee wrote in one comment.

A phone number listed for the chain was disconnected today. A message sent to the restaurant’s remaining page had not been returned by time of publication.

Daruma claimed in 2021 tax filings that its assets and liabilities were both THB41.6 million. Business registration records indicate it was established in January 2016 and remains active, though another business was registered in late May under a similar name. 

The Commerce Ministry indicated that Daruma is owned by Metha Chalingsuk. He has also disappeared.

Franchisee Krittharawee “Petch” Pichitpongchai, who owns multiple branches, said she was also caught off guard by the closure and was planning legal action. 

“I bought the franchise from Metha Chalingsuk, which at the moment we own more than 10 branches. We have gathered all the evidence to file charges against Daruma Company and its executives. Daruma Company is the sole manager of all the accounting and expenses and they would pay monthly dividends to investors. At this time, the investors are trying to contact Daruma executives for clarification.”

A Line group chat, named Daruma Sushi Victims, has been set up in an attempt to help victims. #Daruma was trending atop Thai Twitter on Monday morning.

A Facebook user claiming to be a branch manager said employees were also in the dark and lost their jobs without notice. He claimed that the restaurant’s debts had caused suppliers to cut it off from delivering raw ingredients.

Daruma Sushi, established in 2015 as a mass market buffet, was best known for selling customers 10 visits for THB199.

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