Archive for the ‘Annals of cheap’ Category

Annals of cheap: QB House

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

QB

Be kind and shampoo before you go

Some people love to get their hair cut and set. They love the scent of shampoo and the touch of the beautician’s hands on their scalps, or the subtle snip-snip of the barber’s shears and the reassuring dampness of a hot towel; the whole sensuous, tactile experience augmented with light conversation and unforced cameraderie.

Then again, some people absolutely hate all that, and for those people there’s QB House, whose business model is as simple as styrofoam: 10 minutes in the chair for ¥1,000. No shampoo, no shave, no small talk. Just a haircut. Does that look OK? Get outta here.

Presently QB (“Quick Beauty”) Net Co., Ltd. runs 401 outlets throughout Japan, as well as shops in Hong Kong and Singapore. The first one opened near Kanda Station in Tokyo in 1996 and the QB approach caught on very fast.

QB keeps costs down mainly by renting very small spaces and doing high-volume business. Profit margins are about 7.4%, which means each shop should ideally serve about 85 customers a day. The cut station is self-contained, with a chair and a tall vanity-like facility that features a sterilizer, an “air washer” (extending vacuum device to remove cut hair strands from the customer’s person), disinfectant and drawers of disposable combs and paper towels made of recycled material. A comb is used only once and then offered to the customer afterward. By having everything in such close proximity, QB not only makes effective use of space but allows each haircutter to clean up quickly so as to save time.

It’s easy for the customer, too. Instead of a barber pole, each outlet features a traffic light set up in the window. A green light means no waiting; yellow means a wait of 5 to 10 minutes; and red says a wait of 15 minutes or more. The customer walks in and inserts a thousand-yen bill in the vending machine (no change is given) in exchange for a ticket, and sits down. When his turn comes up he hands the ticket to the cutter and tells him/her what he wants. Some outlets accept Suica and Edy cards.

Continue reading about QB House →

Annals of cheap: Gyoza no Osho

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

The Nishi Nippori branch of Osho

The Nishi Nippori branch of Osho

Only a handful of businesses have managed to actually increase sales during the current economic downturn. Two are no-brainers: fast-food Leviathan McDonald’s and cheapo clothing retailer Uniqlo. Less generally known is the fact that the restaurant chain, Gyoza no Osho, has enjoyed 74 consecutive months of sales growth. Revenues for the quarter ending in June were ¥15.5 billion, which is 23 percent more than sales for the same quarter in 2008. Some months have even seen a 100 percent increase in revenues over the previous year.

As the name indicates, Osho’s specialty is gyoza (pot sticker), but it’s more of a general purpose Chinese food chain than a restaurant that pushes ramen — which is prominent on the menu, but stir fry seems to be more their bag. The first Osho opened in Kyoto in 1967, and now there are 533 outlets nationwide, though almost none in northern Japan, which doesn’t seem that interested in Chinese food.

Continue reading about Gyoza no Osho →

Annals of cheap: Garigari-kun

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

garigari2a

The two original flavors: “soda” (top) and “muscat of Alexandria”

It’s been a relatively cool summer overall, and while the temperatures have had something to do with the drop in sales of beer (or “beer-like” beverages) and air conditioners, it doesn’t seem to have had much of an adverse effect on Japan’s favorite packaged frozen snack, Garigari-kun, which added a few new flavors this past season.

Garigari-kun is classified as “bo (stick or bar) ice candy,” which means it has a lot of competition. Ice candy is more popular in Japan than ice cream owing to its associations with the traditional summer treat kakigori (shaved ice), and if you look in your local convenience store freezer you’ll find a large and confusing array of ice candy, both bar and cup types, that seem interchangeable. But Garigari-kun always outsells them all by a huge margin, and one of the reasons is the price: only ¥60. The Sankei-Fuji website says that the dairy company Akagi Nyugyo sold 255 million Garigari-kun bars in 2008.

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