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FAST, CHEAP, AND SUDDENLY CHIC:
Home-Grown Fast Food Steps Into the Mainstream
September 11, 2000
Young women rarely ventured into these shops--until quite recently. The reason for the transformation has to do with efforts by the fast-food chains to make the outlets more appealing to the fashion- and health-conscious. They have brightened up their decor and created roomier seating. Some have also moved the vending machines selling meal coupons inside the store, sparing women the embarrassment of buying the coupons under the gaze of passersby.
The shops have also introduced a broader, better-balanced selection of dishes that will satisfy women and families--not just time-pressed male workers. One suburban gyudon chain offers traditional boiled-vegetable and tofu dishes as well as a type of miso soup full of healthy ingredients. It appeals to children not only with kid-sized portions of favorites like curry and rice but also with free giveaways, changing souvenirs every month.
Another gyudon chain has begun offering set meals centered on a nourishing soup of grated tofu, taro potatoes, and daikon (Japanese radish) for people who want more than just slices of beef on top of rice. And a chain of noodle shops serves miniature portions of oyako-don (chicken, onion, and egg on a bowl of rice) and kakiage-don (vegetable tempura on rice) along with udon noodles to entice women diners who are more interested in variety than volume.
This does not necessarily ensure a rosy future for the home-grown fast food, however. Japan's (and the world's) largest hamburger chain, for instance, has launched a price war, slashing prices in half on weekdays. Because Japanese fast food is invariably served in ceramic bowls and on plates, they must be washed, a process that eats into the shops' earnings, as does the extra time it takes to serve the food. Unless they can find ways of keeping costs to a minimum, indigenous fast-food businesses could wind up being priced out of competition.
Copyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.