While several anime conventions have a maid café, it’s a rare thing for one to have a butler-only café. Sometimes maid cafés will enlist employees who dress up as butlers but seldom is there a café filled with butlers with the experience tailored to appeal to feminine taste and desires. Anime Expo fills this void with their butler café filled with young guys eager to wait on their lady patrons or those who like manlier servers. With a romantic set up of candles and roses at each table and entertainment throughout the hour, there’s much to see and enjoy for newcomers and repeat visitors alike!
One big difference between this and other cafes, and this may make it or break it for some people, is that the butlers do not serve you food. You and your group (as space allows) are seated by one butler at a roundtable with other eager patrons with 1 or 2 table butlers that will be your personal attendants for the duration of the hour. As everyone is getting situated, the butler or butlers will introduce themselves and ask questions of their guests, often referring to them as goshujin-sama (master) or ojou-sama (lady). “Every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man”, and these guys take their appearance seriously with nice outfits, cool hairstyles, and a general poise about them. Shortly after everyone is seated, the MC and head butler gets up on the stage and in an amusing way lists the rules of the café for the customers. There are obvious things like “Do not touch the butlers” and “Do not ask for personal information” as well as “Do not take pictures”, as they do charge for pictures at the end of the hour. The tables have lovely white tablecloths adorned with roses, pretty centerpieces, and electric candles (a good call since there will inevitably be a lot of banging on the tables).
Butlers may entertain a table solo or with a partner, but they are all trained in keeping the energy of the group going and bringing in shy or hesitant people into the mix to make sure everyone has a good time. Their conversational skills alone are enough to bring a smile to your face as they show you the perfect blend of interest in you personally and charisma to carry the flow of conversation. They show you the menu of food and drink available for purchase which you yourself will have to get and pay for separately. The butlers choose and play games with their table and they all include some kind of punishment. Punishments are doled out to whoever loses the round or game be it patron or butler and range from having to bark at the end of your sentences to making a silly sound anytime a certain word is said. They’re usually light-hearted and silly, so no need to get scared!
Along with good company and games, the butlers also do several performances throughout the show. These include dances, live music, and singing. One lucky lady is even serenaded by one of the butlers! During the performances, all other activities stop and different butlers will take to the stage so there are at least some still out on the floor at all times. These aren’t simple, cute dances either! These guys are talented and know how to work a crowd. It’s a little on the sexy side but reserved enough you wouldn’t find it inappropriate for a general audience. Seeing your butler bust a move or rock out gives you the feeling they can really do anything! As time draws to a close, they’ll have all the butlers go up and thank everyone for their patronage and offer polaroids for purchase they’ll decorate so you can have a personalized memory of your special café experience!
This year, the butler café was teamed up with Voltage Inc., an otome gaming company. They had merchandise for sale back near the food as well as a photo op with their official cosplayer as one of the ninja characters. Seeing what they had to offer was fun if you could spare a moment from all the cool stuff happening at the tables! It was clear these guys really take pride in offering the best service possible and entertaining their guests. With each butler different but eager to serve, it makes for a fun place to revisit. It might be strange not being served at a café, but the Anime Expo butler café certainly has a lot more to offer than just table service.