Japanese Restaurant EDAMAME
Overseas Restaurant Consultant Mr. Masaki Takahashi
– First, can you tell us about your personal background?
When I was in university, I was chosen as a member of Japan’s national karate team of students. After graduating from university, I worked for a construction company, which was a group company of a bank, for 2 years and I quit as I did not really like to be hired or used by other people.
After I quit the company, I thought about doing some business overseas as I visited a lot of countries as a member of the national karate team when I was a student at university, so I went to Canada to look for some opportunities.
Then I started working at a sushi restaurant there. That was my first career as a chef.
I lived in Canada for 2 years, then moved to America where I taught karate and cooking for a half year.
Then I went back to Japan. I still liked making something, and I was familiar with the food service industry, so I started working for a company that had 45 shops of ramen-izakaya including franchises. After working there for a while, I was about to be a part of management, so I thought it was time to move on, then I started working at another restaurant that featured fusion cuisine.
Then, I opened my own restaurant in Yakuin, Fukuoka It went well surprisingly, and I opened 4 restaurants in 3 years. However, the restaurant business always has ups and downs, so I thought about doing another thing as well, and I noticed that when the restaurant business all goes well, sweets-related business goes down, and when the sweets-related business goes up, restaurant business goes down in general, so I opened a Swiss roll shop to be balanced with the restaurant business.
As I was young at that time, I played golf 4 times a week and went out drinking a lot every night in Nakasu, Fukuoka. As a result, the sales of the restaurants and shops went down and I ended up closing all of them.
Then, I started helping my friend’s restaurant and wanted to go abroad again, and I moved to Hong Kong 2 years later.
Then I moved to New Zealand. When I was leaving New Zealand, I was asked to restructure the business of restaurants in Vietnam and Cambodia, so I lived in those two countries back and forth to help as a consultant.
– Restaurant business in Cambodia seems to be hard for me. What do you think?
I think so, too.
The average income is still low, and the balance of food, clothing, and housing is unstable. Therefore, if we don’t focus on the right target audience, it would definitely fail.
If the target audience is Cambodian people, we still have to think about which class of Cambodian people we target. Or European, or Japanese. We target the people first and make the menu and price them. In developed countries, there is a theory of what is being preferred to some extent, but Cambodia does not have it, which makes the business more difficult.
– I heard that after you got involved in Edamame’s management, the sales of the restaurant went up. Let me ask you a couple of questions about it. You were one of the start-up members of the restaurant, right?
Yes. But when I was asked to join it, I said it was impossible to run a restaurant at the location and was against it. Eventually, the restaurant was opened, but if there were a few Japanese people, it would have been difficult to make a profit because of their salaries, so I helped them make the menu and get ready for opening, then I quit right before the restaurant opened.
– After the opening of Edamame, it went well first, then it went down, then you returned to Edamame. What was your impression when you returned?
The services, taste, and management system were different from what I made. I thought it would take at least a half year to regain the trust of customers.
– What exactly did you do for it?
First, I changed the menu. Then I talked to our staff a lot to get in the same direction. And educating our Cambodian manager was important, too.
More specifically, for example, there are ingredients for 5 portions, but our cooks sometimes snitch food or throw away small parts of ingredients, so it could actually make 4 portions of the ingredients for 5 portions. It is a big loss. However, it has been improved already.
I believed that when the degree of employee satisfaction is high, the degree of customer satisfaction would be high, too, so I cared for our staff a lot, too.
Also, I seriously thought about making customers feel satisfied when they pay the bills. I believed that managing numbers well leads to an increase in sales, too.
As a result, the sales got more than doubled after changing the menu, and the profit rate got 2.5 times higher. I did not expect to have a good result this soon.
– What are your plans for the future?
Edamame restaurant has focused on Japanese people, and it has been going well, so we want to target European people and Chinese people next.
For me, personally, I want to open a cooking school. I would like to make a system in which Cambodian people who learnt how to cook Japanese food in Cambodia are able to work in Japan.
Instability of living effects on services in restaurants in a bad way, so if Cambodia becomes more wealthy, the restaurant business would go up.
I have turned 51, but I feel that the life has just started.
I have been helped by many people every time I needed them, and I’ve made it so far thanks to them, so I would like to be the one to help others, appreciating all the great encounters in my life.