Japanese ramen ราเม็ง is attracting more and more attention abroad, and as the merits of this dish are recognized, more and more Japanese companies are moving into the foreign market. We have collected material about large network companies seeking to enter the markets of Europe and America, as well as venture capital companies that are experiencing sales opportunities in Asian countries, and asked about their prospects and further challenges.
New opportunities in the foreign market
The giant restaurant business, the Dosanko Ramen chain, appeared in the 1960s, and as a result of the active growth of the franchise, the number of restaurants using this brand throughout Japan once reached 1200. In 2014, the company revised its branding strategy and in October of the same year opened the first restaurant in the center of Paris.
Then, restaurants appeared in Los Angeles (USA) and Melbourne (Australia). The goal was to open 50 restaurants in Europe and America within five years. Currently, there are 300 restaurants of this brand in Japan, and the company’s website on the directions of business development even indicates that the further development strategy will be focused on foreign countries, and business in Japan will be considered as a symbolic starting point.
What is the vision for business development abroad? Ina Shintaro, executive secretary of the company, says: “The domestic Japanese ramen market is really saturated. Foreign restaurants, on the other hand, can generate income. For example, in a Parisian restaurant, customers leave twice as much money as in Japan, and sales are 4 times higher. There are a lot of Japanese restaurants near it, which contain Chinese and Koreans, but the difference in quality is obvious. If you serve a good meal, visitors will definitely come. In Europe and America, Japanese culture is perceived positively, and further demand can be expected.
From “sushi boom” to ramen
The company entered the U.S. market in the 1970s, had a restaurant in New York City, and only 11 restaurants in the U.S., ahead of other chains of ramen restaurants. However, as Ina Sintaro says, it was premature at the time, and even the local chefs themselves could not appreciate the taste of ramen. Japanese workers posted there admitted that the taste was not very good. By the 1990s, the company had phased out its activities there, and although there was a “boom in Japanese cuisine”, the first thing it needed was sushi, chicken under teriyaki sauce, etc.
Acaneri soup-miso at Dosanco Ramen restaurant
On the other hand, the Dosanco network itself has been experiencing difficulties since 2000 due to changes in the business structure. Franchises that appeared during the period of rapid economic growth began to give up their positions and closed more and more outlets. Some restaurants have stopped following the technological instructions of the main company, and the prestige of the brand has diminished.
That’s when the “Ramen boom” began abroad. Dosanko has joined forces with the Tikara no moto group, known for its Hakata ippudo restaurants, which were among the first to go beyond Japan, and is committed to rebuilding the brand with a view to the foreign market.
How do I deliver fresh produce?
According to Ina Cintaro, the business model looks like the company is opening restaurants with direct management in different countries of Europe and America, and when positive results will be achieved, it attracts business partners, expanding the franchise in these countries. This business faces the question: how to provide taste and level of service identical to those in Japanese restaurants? Foreign restaurants now use frozen noodles, but here we can’t do without establishing a local system of food supply, which should meet certain standards.
The public attention was attracted by the allocation of two billion yen by the Cool Japan Foundation to Tikara No Moto Holding in December 2014 for foreign development. The fund is supported by the government and several Japanese corporations, and is engaged in the development of Japanese culture abroad. The company plans to build noodle, soup and other ingredients for Japanese cuisine in Europe and America, which in a few years will be able to supply high quality products.
Cooperation of venture capital companies with small but famous restaurants
There are more than a hundred ramen restaurants in Singapore, both under the direct control of well-known companies and franchises, and there is fierce competition between them. In November 2004, the Takuman Restaurant was opened there, where you can feel the original taste of six famous Japanese types of ramen, each of which in the homeland of these dishes can be tasted only in one restaurant.
It was created by Inoue Takuma, director of Gourmet Innovation venture company. The restaurant offers a wide choice of corume ramen (ramen on pork bone broth) from the restaurant “Honda Seten”, ramen with chicken fat, with dried nori algae and spinach from Yokohama Iekei restaurants, Jiro Insupaya ramen, Hajime chicken broth ramen from Tokyo, Do Miso ramen from Do Miso and Katsuura tantammen. All of these restaurants are well known to Japan’s ramen lovers, and before the restaurant opened, owners came to Singapore to reproduce the flavor of dishes that lined up their restaurants.