The recent Maoyu anime insisted that "no one in this world dislikes maids." Be that as it may, the fantasy economics show might have something to say about the last decade's proliferation of maid cafes. Sankei Shimbun ("Industrial and Economic Newspaper") certainly did, publishing a report “Why Are Maid Cafes Unprofitable? Over Half Have Closed in Akihabara in 10 Years” about the business' pit falls.
Sankei lays out that since the 2001 advent of maid cafes, 282 opened in Akihabara. Of these 150 closed by 2011, leaving 132 open.
The basic economics of the issue is that maid cafes have the same basic overhead as other cafes, including rent, ingredients, cooks and the like. But, the maid service often requires additional staff expense. that cost shifts the profit margin compared to a visit to a standard coffee shop and the difference is passed on to the customer in a cover charge and/or a more expensive menu.
The author notes that from the very beginning, there were accusations of “questionable acts" being performed at cafes but, really, given that you can pretty much just count on the establishments for food, served by cute maids with "welcome masters" mannerisms, the value proposition is that the extra expense of visiting a maid cafe is offering the customer a moe experience.
So, the real question is, how much moe can the market bear? Do most visitors get their fill of the novelty with one visit? Is there a customer base who will regularly pay for the escapist fantasy? Is it a fad or a sustainable market?
The numbers point to a demand that's less than the supply.
The feature suggests that the dwindling number of maid cafes hasn't found its bottom yet. However, while it hasn't fixed its position in Japanese culture the way the maiko of Kyoto have, it is currently difficult to imagine Akihabara without maids.