Japanese restaurant operator upbeat about dining market in Bangkok

BANGKOK, NNA - Japanese restaurant chain operator Ootoya Holings Co.'s Thai franchisee remains optimistic about the prospects of Japanese eating-out business in Bangkok despite its first decline in the number of outlets amid intensifying competition.

CRG International Foods Co., whose earnings in Bangkok account for 80 percent of the total, forecasts its 2017 revenue will grow at least 5 percent from last year to 8 million baht (about $242,000) through store expansion mainly in the Thai capital, CRG President Ampaipan Chirathivat told NNA.

According to a survey by the Bangkok office of the Japan External Trade Organization, the number of Japanese restaurants in Thailand totaled 2,774 at the end of June, up 2.2 percent from a year before. Those in Bangkok, however, dropped 0.8 percent to 1,739, the first decrease since the survey began in 2009.

The JETRO office attributed the decline in the capital to an economic slowdown, labor shortage, rising manpower costs and the closure of outlets due to renovation at many shopping malls.

The overall figure was pushed up by an increase in the number of Japanese restaurants in rural areas totaling 1,035, up 7.8 percent from a year earlier, the survey showed.

Currently, CRG operates 41 Ootoya outlets nationwide, 10 of which are located in rural areas. It plans to open three to five stores a year, focusing mainly on large shopping malls in Bangkok and other major cities.

The company has earmarked an investment budget of 80 million to 100 million baht for business expansion this year, including store renovation, technology development and better services, while allocating another 30 million baht for marketing activities.

According to the CRG president, the market size of Japanese restaurants in Thailand is estimated at 22 billion baht. Its annual growth rate has gradually slowed from 10 percent around four years ago to a single digit due mainly to market saturation.

But she said it could still grow 5 to 10 percent this year due to the unabated popularity of Japanese food among Thais and a continuous rise in new brands. (NNA/Kyodo)