It’s the early 1970s. TV is just starting to become a household fixture. Toasters are a new-fangled machine. The city is becoming busier as a new decade rushes in. Yet, when you turn into a sidestreet in this small, nameless Japanese neighborhood, time seems to remain at a standstill, especially in this old-fashioned Japanese diner.
In this quaint establishment, a kindly old granny cooks the food while her assistant, 21-year-old Sue, washes the dishes. You see all kind of folks eating at the diner: there’s grumpy old Grouse with his graying hair and cane; young and spirited Missy, a factory worker whose belly seems to grow bigger every time she comes around to eat; Furrows in his starched suit and air of seriousness that makes him look way past middle-aged; Fudeko, the scraggly-looking adult manga artist; and a host of other characters, one of whom might just happen to be the Buddha disguised as a wise monk with a penchant for green tea and sweet dumplings.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Diner Neo, a game that isn’t just beautifully designed, but one that also has wonderful and bittersweet side stories. In between serving traditional Japanese dishes, Chinese favorites, and western meals, you get to talk to customers about a myriad of experiences, such as growing old, finding and losing loved ones, finding oneself, moving on, falling in love—all while you’re serving a colorful array of home-cooked fare.
In this idle restaurant game, you’ll be playing as both Granny and Sue, who are working hard to keep this old-timey Japanese diner afloat after nearly being run out of business—no thanks to the debt amassed by Granny’s daughter and son-in-law, who used to manage the diner. Good ol’ Granny does the cooking while Sue, a kind girl with a troubled past, washes the dishes and runs the delivery service on her bike.
One of the main features that makes Hungry Hearts Diner Neo stand apart from others of the same genre is that instead of the customers choosing their own orders, you get to decide what’s on the menu and that’s where the customers pick their meals from. You put meals on a sideboard and each meal has a consumable number. When the number of meals gets consumed, you may either make the same one or choose another.
Unlike other restaurant games, customers also won’t have a timer or progress bar that serves as a countdown for the moment they would leave. Instead, you get to fulfill orders at your leisure without the threat of customers leaving disgruntled.
Additionally, you don’t have to make any of the meals through a set of steps and ingredients. Rather, all you need to do is click on the icon representing the customer’s order and voila! The meal is served. This makes Hungry Hearts Diner Neo truly a relaxing idle game that doesn’t involve any time pressure. You’re here to enjoy discovering recipes and, most of all, getting to know your customers on a deeper level.
Speaking of level, you get to level up recipes by serving them continuously so the dish gains stars for experience. In doing so, you get to unlock more recipes that are otherwise unlisted in the Food tab. For instance, to make Shaved Ice, you need a Level 5 Soda Float and Level 5 Anmitsu. However, Shaved Ice won’t appear on the Food tab until you unlock one of the side stories.
Apart from leveling up recipes, you also get to level up the diner and Sue’s experience, which will allow you to earn coins and upgrade the diner’s facilities.
As you can unlock recipes by unlocking side stories, so can you unlock side stories by unlocking certain types of food. You’ll know that there’s a new side story unlocked as a prompt will appear, as well as a dialogue box with ellipses on top of the character whose story you’re about to read.
Each customer visits the diner on specific days, and each one also has a list of their favorite food. Having these favorite food items on the menu for a particular customer will give you a chance to converse with them and unlock part of their story. Customers eating their favorite food will also make them happier, signified by stars whenever they eat.
In some cases, serving them food that they’ve mentioned in the side story will be necessary in unlocking the next part of that story. For instance, when Grouse reveals that he’d like to taste some toast, the next time he comes around the diner, have Toast on the menu so he can eat it. This will let you unlock the next part of his story.
Of course, cooking food takes up energy, which is measured in hearts. Each type of recipe requires a certain number of coins and hearts to be cooked. This is typically a small amount for every dish, but if you have lots of hungry customers, you’ll eventually deplete your hearts.
Fortunately, leveling up the diner will restore your hearts to full capacity. You can level up the diner by serving customers, which will fill up an experience bar at the upper right-hand side of the screen, which is next to your heart counter on the left.
If you’re still ways away from leveling up the diner and you find yourself fresh out of hearts, all you need to do is wait a little while until it gets restored to full. One heart can take a couple of minutes to be restored, but logging out of the game for a short while seems to restore your hearts faster.
Though Hungry Hearts Diner Neo is largely a very relaxing and not-so-demanding game, you still need to know how to properly manage your diner. Additionally, serving the right meals for the right customers on a specific day will certainly fast-track your chance at unlocking all the side stories, which are worthwhile rewards in themselves. Getting the right delivery items is also a fun challenge in that customers will occasionally just give you hints of what they want delivered, but not actually tell you the exact food item!
So how do you turn this small, old-timey diner into a busy establishment? What kind of upgrades should you pay for? How do you unlock all the side stories? These and more are what we aim to cover in our beginner’s guide for Hungry Hearts Diner Neo. So get your stoves fired up, your bike well oiled, and bring a bucket for all the tears you’ll be shedding—trust us, you’re going to need it!
Take Mr. Jizo’s Advice to Heart
One of the first customers you’ll be able to talk to is a wise Buddhist monk named Mr. Jizo. He comes to the diner every day except for Sundays, and his favorite food is Green Tea and Sweet Dumplings, which also happen to be among the first food items available in your recipe list.
From time to time, especially when he gets to eat his favorite food, Mr. Jizo will initiate a conversation with Sue. During these short but entertaining chats, Mr. Jizo will offer some of his worldly wisdom to Sue and, by extension, you the player. Basically, consider these conversations with Mr. Jizo as a supplement to the tutorial stage of the game.
Through 7 unlockable side stories, Mr. Jizo will tell you further about how the game works, what challenges you might face, and how you could consider approaching these challenges in the best ways possible—albeit through riddles.
That said, don’t skip these conversations (or any of the side stories for that matter) as they offer some basic but insightful advice about the best way to play and enjoy Hungry Hearts Diner Neo. Since much of Mr. Jizo’s advice is clouded in ambiguity and riddles, you’ll need to really pay attention to what he’s saying. Funnily enough, you’ll catch him occasionally breaking the fourth wall.
Here’s a summary of the 7 side stories and advice that Mr. Jizo will offer:
- Cleaning and Cooking: Depending on how big the diner is, you’ll be serving a minimum of 2 customers, which you can increase by buying upgrades such as more chairs and tables (more on this later). After every customer has finished eating, they’ll leave a plate on the table.
As it’s Sue’s job to wash dishes, you need to click on the dirty plates to put them on the sink so Sue can clean them. Mr. Jizo advises you to collect as many dirty plates as you can before washing them as opposed to just cleaning them one at a time.
However, keep in mind that Sue can only clean a maximum of 8 dirty plates before you can collect more for cleaning. This is important as customers will not occupy seats with dirty plates. As for cooking, Mr. Jizo advises leveling up recipes by making these dishes repeatedly.
- Delivery Troubles: Here, Mr. Jizo advises Sue to “open her mind” and carefully read each delivery ticket as some customers won’t give their exact order, but rather just describe them. We’ll elaborate on how to best fulfill these enigmatic delivery orders in a later section.
- Energy: During this chat, Mr. Jizo explains how the energy system works, which is, as we previously mentioned, measured in hearts. Aside from leveling up the diner, just waiting for a short while will eventually restore your hearts.
- Story Limbo: As the title of this side-story suggests, you may find yourself stuck in some kind of story limbo wherein some customers do not converse with you, so you can’t unlock new side stories. Mr. Jizo advises checking the Customers tab to check out each customer profile and their list of favorite food. We’ll talk more about unlocking side stories in a later section.
- Renovation Time!: This quick chat with Mr. Jizo talks about upgrading the diner to include more chairs and tables, sideboards, and other items that may give additional perks like faster delivery times or more profit. We’ll cover the best upgrades to start with in the next major section of the guide.
- Not Always Hungry: Here, Mr. Jizo explains the Hunger meter, wherein a full meter signifies the diner’s busyness. As time passes, the Hunger meter will deplete, which may mean that you won’t get as many customers for the time being. Waiting a while will eventually refill the Hunger meter, which will make the diner busy with customers again.
- Variety and Balance: In Mr. Jizo’s last side story, he will tell Sue about having variety and balance when serving food. If you serve the same types of food, customers might not order as many.
For instance, giving them a choice between Rice and Fried Rice will only make them order one or the other. Conversely, if you have variety in your menu, customers will stay longer and order more, which will allow you to gain more profit. We’ll further discuss in a later section some of the ways you can organize your menu to include variety and entice customers to enjoy more dishes during their stay.
Once you’ve unlocked all of Mr. Jizo’s side stories, you’ll notice that he won’t be seen in your diner anymore. This isn’t entirely a bad thing as this will let you focus on the side stories of other customers, as well as improve the diner, having been armed with his wise words!
Upgrading Your Diner
Since it’s a small diner that Granny just recently reopened, you’ll start out with 1 table that can seat 2 customers. You’ll also have a sideboard where you can place only 2 kinds of dishes. Eventually, though, you’ll be able to earn enough money to pay for upgrades, which you can find in the Upgrades tab. Aside from coins, you’d also need to level up Sue’s assistant experience by fulfilling tasks that can be found in the Exam tab (more on this later).
Each time you complete a task, you earn money and increase Sue’s assistant experience, which is a prerequisite for purchasing some upgrades. For instance, a new set of tables and chairs might require you to reach Exam Rank 2 before you can buy it regardless of whether you have enough coins for the purchase.
In this case, picking the right upgrades from the get-go is important. Sometimes, it can take a while before you reach a certain Exam Rank so to maximize your purchase, carefully considering how you’ll improve the diner is paramount. Now, it’s not uncommon for players to first consider getting additional chairs and tables as their first upgrade. After all, the more customers you can accommodate, the better your chances of earning a profit. However, we instead suggest getting all sideboard upgrades first, then moving on to tables and chairs.
Keep in mind that sideboards are where you place the food you’d be selling. Each sideboard can hold 2 dishes and you can have a maximum of 3 sideboards.
Through sideboard upgrades, you can follow Mr. Jizo’s advice about having variety and balance in your menu, which will make each customer order more food instead of just 1 or 2 dishes. Getting customers to order more food during their stay makes up for the lack of customers in the early stages of the game.
Additionally, sideboard upgrades are a little more manageable than having more tables and chairs as the latter means that Granny will have to cook more frequently, which can lead her to deplete her heart meter faster. Sue will also have to wash dishes more frequently, which she’ll have to leave to Granny whenever she runs out to fulfill deliveries. Our recommendation, then, is to upgrade the diner with all 3 sideboards first, then have 2 tables and chairs that can seat 4 customers at a time. If you feel that 4 customers will result in slow business, you can supplement this with the following upgrades:
- Worktop: Halves food preparation time
- Autographs: Increases income
- Cash register: Increases customer turnover
- Delivery bike: Increases delivery speed
After you’ve obtained these upgrades, you may consider getting more tables and chairs. On the other hand, you may alternate between getting tables and chairs and any of the supplementary upgrades mentioned above. The most important thing is to get all the sideboard upgrades first as this will also help you unlock side stories faster since you can have as many as 6 food items on your menu at a time.
Organize Your Menu
Speaking of the menu for the day, let’s talk about how you can follow Mr. Jizo’s advice about having variety and balance in what you’re going to serve. First things first: food is divided into 6 categories, namely:
Each category has a list of recipes you can unlock. The more recipes you level up, the better your chance of unlocking other recipes that are not yet listed in a certain category. As you play, you’ll notice that the category for Entrées has the most number of food items listed.
A cursory scroll through each category will let you quickly discover that there’s a lot of food to choose from, so how do you strike a balance between meal combinations? Here are some of our tips:
- Get acquainted with the variety of food items listed under each category. You can’t make the right combinations if you don’t know what you’re working with. Be sure to read the flavor text under each food item as some do state what other dishes they’re well paired with. For instance, Baby Sardines (sides) are described as “delicious when poured over rice.” This already gives you a hint that Rice is a good pair for this side dish.
- Assuming you’ve already acquired all sideboard upgrades, you can choose to serve 1 food item from each category. However, make sure that they’re not all the same type, and that your choices compliment each other.
For instance, you can have a menu of Fried Rice (rice meal), Shumai (entrées), Chilled Tofu (sides), Kenchin Soup (soup), Green Tea (drink), and Sweet Dumplings (dessert). Take care not to pick the same kind of food. An example of a bad combination could be Egg Rice Soup (rice meal), Rolled Omelet (entrée), and Raw Egg (sides)—they’re all made of eggs!
- You may also pick 2 items from certain categories just as long as they pair well with each other. For example, you can have Toast and Ham and Eggs (entrées), Orange Juice and Iced Coffee (drinks), and Shortcake and Fruit Parfait (desserts).
With this combination, customers may choose both entrées, 1 drink, and 1 dessert. You can also have a menu that’s more of a snack than full meals. For instance, you can pick Shaved Ice and Sweet Dumplings (dessert), Fried Tofu and Ohitashi (sides), and Barley Tea and Green Tea (drinks).
- You may also try to have a theme, whether you pick 1 or 2 food items from each category or certain categories. For instance, you can choose to serve a combination of Japanese dishes, such as Rice (rice meal), Grilled Sardines (entrée), Nori (sides), Miso Soup (soup), Green Tea (drinks), and Anmitsu (dessert).
On the other hand, you can serve a combination of more modern or western food, such as Curry and Rice (rice meal), Fried Chicken (entrée), Potato Salad (sides), Creamy Corn Soup (soup), Cola (drinks), and a Fruit Parfait (dessert).
Of course, there are tons of recipes that it’s impossible to memorize which combinations work nicely with each other. This is especially true when you start unlocking new recipes that all need leveling up. Though it’s ideal to make available dishes compliment one another, you’re still free to explore and be adventurous with what’s on the menu.
Additionally, it’s also important to take into account dishes that customers have mentioned during side stories, as well as their favorite food, which we’ll tackle more about in the next section.
Happy Days Equals Happy Customers
Happy customers are, of course, the lifeblood of any successful establishment. In Hungry Hearts Diner Neo, you’ll be able to meet a sundry of different people, each one with their favorite types of food, as well as food they might want to try out. They also come to the diner on specific days, which lets you prepare what kind of food items you’d like to include in your menu for the day. You can view all these when you access the Customer tab and click on the icon of a particular customer.
Days of the week can be seen on the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Each day lasts for about half an hour in real time, and when the timer expires, it will be considered the next day in-game. Aside from specific customers you can converse with, blue-collar workers and salarymen, which are basically NPCs (non-playable characters), will also visit your diner but they don’t have side stories to unlock and are merely there to keep the business running.
Keeping track of the days is important as certain customers are expected to visit the diner on those days. This will give you the chance to unlock side stories by serving them at least one of their favorite food items on that day’s menu, as well as serving a dish they’ve specifically requested in a previous side story conversation.
Keep in mind that some stories are intertwined with others, meaning you can only unlock a side story for a specific character if you’ve managed to unlock a story from another character.
Not only will side stories tug at your heartstrings (seriously, you better prepare those tear ducts and tissue rolls), but they also serve as hints as to other types of food you might want to include in the menu to unlock another part of a specific story.
One example we initially mentioned was Grouse asking for Toast. Another example is Mabo, Granny’s grandson, asking for Salisbury Steak. Until you serve these specific food items to a particular customer who had asked for them, you will, as one of Mr. Jizo’s advice goes, be stuck in story limbo.
To unlock all side stories, you must be able to keep track of the days, the customers, and their favorite food so you’ll know who’s coming and what to put on the menu. That might seem like a lot of work so we’ve decided to put together this nifty table that neatly outlines all this information. To make it a lot easier, we’ve also included the category in which certain types of favorite food are listed, as well as a menu summary at the end of each day.
Keep in mind that some recipes listed in this table won’t be accessible until certain dishes are unlocked or have reached a specific level. Thus, make it a point to check the Food tab to see which new dishes need leveling up as these will also certainly help you unlock other “favorite food” that can help progress side stories.
Since it’s impossible to serve all the customers’ favorite food items all at once as this will significantly limit your ability to level up other recipes, our recommendation is to be mindful of the customers currently in your diner. If they’re any of the customers you can converse with, have at least one of their favorite food items on the menu, or be sure to put a food item on the menu that they’ve requested via the side story.
That said, it’s always a good idea to check the Customers tab so you can reread side story conversations. Similarly, check the Food tab to see if any of the food they’ve mentioned in the side story has already been listed. Otherwise, keep leveling up new recipes to broaden your chances of accessing a specific recipe.
Deciphering Delivery Orders
Aside from customers visiting the diner, you’ll also be getting orders via the phone. The icon of a ringing phone will appear and so will a prompt alerting you to a possible delivery. The thing is, fulfilling delivery orders can sometimes be quite tricky.
Occasionally, customers will be quite clear about what they want to order. But other times, customers phoning in their orders will simply describe to you what they want without actually mentioning a specific food item. While it’s perfectly fine to refuse delivery orders as there won’t be any penalties for doing so, fulfilling them will be even more rewarding as this will also unlock the side stories of characters who order solely through the diner’s delivery service. These 4 characters include:
- Kit: Favorite food includes Fried Tofu Slices.
- Catherine: Favorite food includes Fizzy Pop, Anmitsu, and Hotcakes.
- Mrs. Furuta: Favorite food includes Rice, Nori, and Grilled Sardines.
- Mr. Haku: Favorite food includes Sashimi, Steak, and Liver and Leeks.
Similar to the stories of customers visiting the diner, the side stories of those ordering via the delivery service are also intertwined with those of the other customers. Thus, make an effort to fulfill delivery orders to fully progress side stories.
But how do you even properly decipher the delivery orders if some aren’t even specific?
Let’s take the image below for example:
Every delivery order can have a maximum of 3 food items. If a slot needs to be filled, it will have the word “Cook” on it. At least here, you won’t have to guess how many dishes a customer wants.
Under the delivery box is a description of the customer’s order. As you can see, Catherine wants some Chinese food but Ramen must be included. Since Ramen is the most specific dish, you only have to guess the other two she wants. But how are you supposed to do that?
If you direct your attention to the upper right-hand corner of the screen, you’ll see 3 familiar icons just beside “Prepare Delivery.” Here, you have 2 icons for Entrées and 1 icon for a Rice Meal. Since Ramen falls under the Entrées category, what you need to do is find Chinese food classified as an Entrée and a Rice Meal.
Upon checking the Food tab, Fried Rice for the Rice Meal is your best bet. Meanwhile, for the other Entrée, you have a choice between Shumai and Spring Rolls. We picked Shumai as we thought it was the best pair with the other two dishes.
When Sue comes back from her delivery, you’ll know if you got the order right—which we did!
Let’s look at another example of a more ambiguous order, which we took a while to get:
Here, you’ll see that Mr. Haku’s order must have a Rice Meal, Entrée, and Soup. Plain Rice is easy enough to guess, but what about the soup and the fish? For our first attempt, we delivered Rice, Miso Soup, and Grilled Sardines to Mr. Haku, which was our first mistake as he specified that he wanted fried fish. For our second attempt, we changed the fish to Grilled Salmon, which was wrong again.
However, for our third attempt, we changed up his delivery to include Rice, Nameko Soup, and Fried Aji—the last one not being listed in the Food tab until much later. Ding ding ding! Another satisfied customer!
It really pays to read the customer’s order request carefully so you can pick the right dishes. Sometimes, a dish they want might not be unlocked yet, but if you keep leveling up recipes, you’ll be able to access them in no time.
Again, there’s no penalty for refusing a delivery order you can’t fulfill so if you happen to miss a couple, don’t worry as your customers will give you another call. It’s normal to get a little frustrated if you get delivery orders wrong, but treat it like a learning experience—it’s a way to get to know your customers even better!
Be an Overachiever
Earlier in the guide, we briefly mentioned an Exam tab where you can claim coins for reaching various achievements. Achievements are rewarded whenever you complete tasks such as learning 10 recipes, feeding a customer 100 times, etc. Some tasks are smaller while others take a longer while to complete. Each completed task will help increase Sue’s assistant rank.
Reaching certain Exam Ranks will also allow you to access more upgrades that can make the diner function more efficiently. For instance, the Sideboard 2 can only be accessed if you reach Exam Rank 3, and it costs 30,000 coins.
That said, regularly check which Exam tasks you’re nearing completion, especially if you want access to specific upgrades. Upon fulfilling tasks, you also get extra coins, which you can use to purchase necessary upgrades.
Pick the Best Time to Watch an Ad
Fortunately, ads in Hungry Hearts Diner Neo aren’t too intrusive. There are banner ads at the bottom of the screen, which you’ll barely notice. From time to time, you’ll also have 5-second forced ads, but these are few and far between.
However, the most useful ads are those that you can choose to watch. Occasionally, you’ll get a prompt saying that a show is playing on TV, which signifies that an ad is available for you to watch if you want to restore hearts or activate Fever Mode.
By choosing to watch an ad via the TV, you may restore your heart meter to full.
Similarly, you may watch an ad to activate Fever Mode, which will prompt customers to flood into the diner, order up, and finish quickly so another round of customers can come in. This will last for several seconds so make sure your heart meter is full if you ever choose to activate Fever Mode.
This mode also works well if you’ve managed to upgrade the diner with more chairs and tables. However, you need to quickly replenish food items on the sideboards if you want to fully take advantage of this mode while it’s active.
The caveat for this feature is that the game will randomly select whether TV ads will be for restoring hearts or for activating Fever Mode so read the offer carefully and decide whether the ad will be beneficial at that moment. Otherwise, you may choose to wait for another show to play if you’re not keen on taking up the offer.
Bring a Heartful of Patience, and a Handful of Tissue
As with any idle game, patience will always be a rewarding virtue, and the same is true for Hungry Hearts Diner Neo. We’re not only talking about being patient when it comes to restoring hearts or learning recipes, but also in unlocking the side stories. These stories are perhaps the best selling point of the game as the way they’re presented and woven together make each discovery a heartwarming and, often, a heart-wrenching treat.
We don’t want to spoil anything in this regard, but be prepared to work those tear ducts and spend rolls of tissue reading through the side stories. It’s the very aspect that makes this game not just enjoyable, but also unforgettable.
With that, we conclude our beginner’s guide for Hungry Hearts Diner Neo—a beautifully crafted game that has more to it than meets the eye. Hopefully, with our tips and tricks above, you’re able to follow Mr. Jizo’s sage advice, pick the most advantageous upgrades, come up with a delicious menu each day, get to know all the characters by heart, and unlock all the sumptuous recipes to keep the diner as busy as it should be.
What’s your favorite side story? Which dish is your specialty for a hungry crowd? Were you able to decipher all the delivery orders? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in our comment section below!