A Japanese restaurant in downtown HCM City’s District 1 is owned and managed by Vietnamese. — VNS Photo Bồ Xuân Hiệp
HCM CITY — Japanese investors are pouring money into hundreds of restaurants in Việt Nam as local incomes continue to rise around the country.
Japanese restaurants began to appear in the 1990s, but the number has soared in recent years.
Chains like Tokyo Deli, Yakimono, Sushi Rei and Gyu Shige can be seen on busy streets in Hà Nội, HCM City, and in other major cities and provinces.
Many Japanese restaurant chains have expanded operations in the country, with more than 1,500 Japanese restaurants.
Gyu Shige BBQ Restaurant, with 130 restaurants in Japan, officially entered Việt Nam in 2016 with its first store in HCM City, while the chain Ootoya recently opened its second restaurant at the Bitexco Tower in HCM City.
More than 10 years ago, Okamura Food-Japan cooperated with Trung Sơn Food JSC to open the Tokyo Deli restaurant chain in Hà Nội and HCM City.
After 12 years of operation, there are now 20 branches of Tokyo Deli in the country. It targets having 50 restaurants nationwide next year.
In addition, the Hatoyama Japanese seafood restaurant under the Migroup Investment and Trading JSC recently opened its second branch in Hà Nội, bringing the total number to three in Việt Nam.
In 2017, there were 650 Japanese restaurants in HCM City, three times the number in 2014, according to statistics from the Japanese Consulate General in HCM City,
Half of the Japanese restaurants in Việt Nam are owned and operated by Japanese, with the rest by Vietnamese through franchise models.
When entering the local market, Japanese food enterprises have a tendency to adapt to Vietnamese tastes.
Besides the restaurant sector, Japanese investment in Việt Nam in general and the number of Japanese visitors to Việt Nam have both increased, as well as accompanying services.
The potential also comes from increased spending on food from Vietnamese.
According to Việt Nam Report JSC, a market research and business assessment company in Hà Nội, Việt Nam’s annual food consumption is estimated to account for 15 per cent of its GDP.
Despite huge potential, newcomers have to face competition from rivals from South Korea and Thailand who have established a strong presence in the market, according to experts.
Thai food matches Vietnamese palates well, while South Korean food has become trendy as a by-product of music such as K-Pop and the Korean movie industry.
Japanese culture is known for its elegance and sophistication and unrivaled standards of quality of both dishes and service as well as higher prices. As a result, many of the Japanese restaurants target mid- and high-income customers.
But, as the Vietnamese middle class continues to grow, with a focus on healthy food, consumers are willing to spend more for higher quality products.
To decrease the cost of ingredients, Japanese investors are beginning to look for local partners to ensure supplies that satisfy Japanese standards but at a much lower cost.
As of the end of last year, more than US$57 billion worth of Japanese capital was invested in Việt Nam with nearly 4,000 projects, according to figures from the Ministry of Planning and Investment.
Last year, Japan was Việt Nam’s largest FDI investor with a total registered capital of nearly $8 billion, accounting for 31 per cent of the country’s total FDI.
A recent report from the Japan External Trade Organisation survey on investment trends among Japanese firms operating in Việt Nam in the 2018 fiscal year showed that nearly 70 per cent of Japanese businesses wanted to expand operations in Việt Nam. — VNS