Posts Tagged ‘gyudon’

Restaurant chain retains No. 1 position in sales . . . and robberies

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Hit me: One of two Sukiyas near Kamiyacho Station in Tokyo

Last month, many news outlets reported an attempted robbery of the Asaka, Saitama Prefecture branch of the gyudon (beef bowl) chain Sukiya. Though such crimes are still rare in Japan when compared to other countries, this one received a lot of attention because of what the stickup man said as he brandished a knife at the counter person: “Maido onajimi no Sukiya . . . ,” which basically means he comes to Sukiya often, though it isn’t entirely clear if he meant as a customer or as a thief.

Sukiya is the number one gyudon chain in Japan, owing mainly to the fact that it’s got the most branches: about 1,500 nationwide. The next biggest chain, Yoshinoya, operates about 1,200, with Matsuya a distant third with 800. But if Sukiya has an edge over Yoshinoya in terms of sales, in terms of robberies it’s miles ahead. According to the National Police Agency, between January and August, Sukiya branches were the victims of 90 percent of the robberies perpetrated against gyudon restaurants. That’s an impressive portion, though it should also be pointed out that, altogether, there were only 57 robberies of gyudon restaurants nationwide during this period. Robbery, as a matter of fact, has been on the decrease in recent years, though the targeting of gyudon restaurants has risen.

According to an article in the Tokyo Shimbun, there are a variety of reasons for the increase. The main one is that almost all robberies of commercial businesses take place late at night, and over the past decade most gyudon restaurant chains have extended their business hours and are now open round the clock. A lot of other 24-hour food service businesses use vending machines to collect money; and convenience stores, which are also open all the time, have less cash on the premises thanks to the widespread use of e-money, debit cards and prepaid cards. Two thieves who were caught in August after robbing a Sukiya in Tokyo of ¥200,000 told police they had gotten the idea from discussion groups on the Internet. Apparently, would-be robbers often trade intelligence on good places to hit, and because Sukiya is so well-known and there’s a branch on practically every corner, it’s seen as an easy target.

In any case, the Asaka thief wasn’t a particularly good one. The counter person, a part-timer, managed to hit the alarm button and the police captured the robber shortly after he left. Since most Sukiya branches already have alarm systems installed, the police have suggested they, pardon the pun, beef up their late-night staff, though that would obviously defeat the whole purpose of a chain like Sukiya, which charges rock-bottom prices. It’s why they’re number one, even if in surveys real gyudon fans much prefer Yoshinoya.

McDonald’s sticks its Big Mac where it’s not wanted

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Spoiler with secret sauce

Spoiler with secret sauce

With the end of the “eco car” rebate set for the end of September, the government has run out of stimulus plans and seems no closer to reversing Japan’s dangerous spiral of deflation. Consumers now expect prices to continue to drop, putting pressure on retailers to cut them even more. The latest company to join the cost-cutting frenzy is McDonald’s, which hardly needs to attract more customers. The ubiquitous U.S.-based hamburger chain and bete noire of the global slow food movement has remained above the competitive fray with profits that almost defy reason and only serve to reinforce the company’s unique brand position.

Nevertheless, McDonald’s Japan announced on Aug. 12 that it was cutting the price of a Big Mac to ¥200 from Aug. 17 to Aug. 26. Normally, a Big Mac costs between ¥290 and ¥320, depending on the location. During a press conference on Aug. 4, the president of McDonald’s Japan talked about the gyudon (beef bowl) war that took place earlier this year among the main three gyudon chains. Though he said that his company initially didn’t feel that the war had anything to do with McDonald’s, eventually they came around to the realization that lunch prices had been irrevocably reduced as a result. Zensho, the company that operates the biggest gyudon chain, Sukiya, saw its sales increase by 30 percent; and even after the war was over and prices rose (though not back to the original level) business was better than it was last year. The same went for the second-biggest gyudon chain, Matsuya, though revenues weren’t as big as Sukiya’s. No. 3, Yoshinoya, didn’t see any appreciable change after the war, probably because its prices, even after the discount, remained higher than those of the other two chains.

Consequently, McDonald’s, which can certainly afford it, has decided it needs to compete more aggressively for the lunchtime crowd and thinks that the Big Mac is the best weapon in its arsenal. And whatever the company loses in profits for the Big Mac it gains by not having to advertise the discount. McDonald’s has received enormous free coverage of the deal on TV news and in tabloids. That’s the main advantage of being one of the biggest companies in the world: Whatever you do, the media reports it. Though the discount period is only 10 days, it’s likely that the price will not return to its former level. McDonald’s has already done quite well with the breakfast crowd by reducing its McGriddle product from ¥200 to ¥100 on an indefinite basis.

Where’s the (cheap) beef?

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Yoshinoya: Blink and the campaign is over

Yoshinoya: Blink and the campaign is over

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is presently in Japan to restart talks on beef imports, might be heartened by the gyudon (beef bowl) war going on in the fast food sector. All three of the big gyudon chains are fighting a bloody battle for market share. Yoshinoya has the most at stake. The food service company had projected a ¥1.3 billion loss for the last quarter that ended up being an ¥8.9 billion loss, the largest since the company went public in1990.

This week all three chains announced cheaper prices for their basic beef bowl (nami-mori). Matsuya reduced its product by ¥70 to ¥250, while Sukiya, the industry leader, cut its gyudon from ¥280 to ¥250.

The savings won’t last forever. Matsuya’s shinseikatsu oen (“new life” for new company employees) campaign will end April 23, while Sukiya’s is only until April 21. Yoshinoya’s is even shorter. It ends April 13.

On a related note, the sanuki udon (wheat noodle) chain Hanamaru, which has been discussed in this blog before, is also having a bargain campaign for regular “users.” Between April 7 and 16, outlets will be selling a limited number of teiki-ken (limited time passes) fashioned after public transportation passes. The passes cost ¥500 and are good until May 15. During the effective period, the pass will get you ¥105 off any udon dish in the store, which means you have to use it at least five times between now and May 15 to get your money’s worth.


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