Pub food or sushi? Watami Co., Ltd., a large chain of izakaya (pubs), announced on December 8, 2021 that its first sushi restaurant, “Sushi no Wa”, would open in Tokyo the next day.
The Izakayas have fought against the COVID-19 pandemic. For much of 2021, alcoholic beverage service has been discouraged. Bars and restaurants were pushed to close early, while business centers were deserted.
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This new movement is intended to boost sales.
Aimed at families, the chain will open stores near train stations and residential areas with a plan to expand to 100 stores nationwide over the next five years.
Unlike the conveyor belt kaiten zushi, the chefs of Sushi no Wa will personally unroll the sushi. Pricing has been set to start at ￥96 JPY (about 1 USD) per coin. An extensive menu featuring yakitori chicken skewers and chanko nabe (a type of meat and vegetable hot pot popularly eaten by sumo wrestlers) will also be on offer.
The Watami group ran 450 Izakaya Japanese-style pubs in 2019. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of customers has dropped since then.
Changing its business format is the company’s approach to overcome the downward trend. Currently, the group operates just 280 Izakaya pubs, while also branching out into yakiniku Korean barbecue restaurants.
“I wanted sushi to be another weapon to change the commercial format, in addition to yakiniku,” company chairman and chairman Miki Watanabe said at the Dec. 8 press conference.
(Read it Sankei Shimbun column in Japanese on this link.)
Author: The Sankei Shimbun