A quick shout-out to Watami, the leading izakaya chain in Japan. For those who do not know, the izakaya is basically a Japanese style drinking place with lots of inexpensive food to complement the alcohol. Most Japanese salarymen frequent an izakaya regularly with their colleagues to unwind after a stressful day and connect. Watami has been active in Asian markets for many years and has done a great job refining the concept for non-Japanese customers. What you see is affordable Japanese casual dining for young people and families, selling everything from sushi to donburi to Japanese flavored pizza. The food is not great but adequate for the price points. Hong Kong consumers can eat for as low as HKD 50 (USD 6.50) for lunch and the selection across price points is large.
Currently Watami has 34 stores alone in Hong Kong and there is room for more growth. American casual dining is far less successful due to price and menu. Hong Kong people just love Japanese food at affordable prices.
Despite all the anti-Japanese sentiment in China, Watami is growing there as well. There are 33 stores spread across Shanghai, and South China. The stores are very popular and diners appreciate the variety and pricing.
This is a concept with very large development potential in every Asian market and it will be interesting to see if the company can take advantage of the opportunities.