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Yoshinoya Expands Global Reach with New Ramen Ventures

Japanese Chain Targets Europe, Southeast Asia for Growth, Aiming to Make Ramen a Key Revenue Source
y 9861.TSE Mid and Small Cap 2000
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Yoshinoya Holdings, renowned for its beef bowl chain, is venturing into the global ramen market, aiming to make this popular Japanese noodle dish a cornerstone of its future growth. The company’s subsidiary, Withlink, currently operates 44 ramen shops in Japan and 29 abroad, predominantly in Indonesia, offering authentic flavors with soup exported from Japan.

This spring, Withlink is set to open a Bari-Uma store, specializing in tonkotsu pork-bone soup ramen, in Edinburgh, Scotland. This marks Yoshinoya’s first foray into the European market, with monthly sales anticipated to surpass $100,000. Using Scotland as a launchpad, the company also eyes expansion into Germany, Italy, and additional stores in Indonesia and Malaysia. A significant move includes plans to enter the Middle Eastern market with a halal-certified chicken-based soup.

With an ambitious goal to increase its global network from around 70 to 300 locations by 2034, Withlink expects about 70% of these outlets to be outside Japan. This global push follows Yoshinoya’s successful overseas expansion of its gyudon restaurants, which reported a segment income surge of 86% to 1.7 billion yen ($11.5 million) in the March-November period, driven by a post-pandemic economic rebound.

In addition to its international expansion, Yoshinoya plans to open over 80 new gyudon restaurants, mainly in China and Indonesia, representing a 25% increase from the previous fiscal year.

Yoshinoya’s re-entry into the ramen business follows a brief exit due to declining profits and soaring ingredient prices. The company initially entered the ramen market in 2007 but withdrew in 2009, only to re-emerge in 2016 with the acquisition of Setagaya and its subsequent expansion.

The company’s medium-term business plan through fiscal 2024 emphasizes developing the ramen segment alongside its established gyudon and Hanamaru udon chains. CEO Yasutaka Kawamura envisions ramen becoming the next globally popular Japanese food, following sushi.

The global popularity of Japanese cuisine is evident, with a 20% increase in Japanese restaurants overseas from 2021 to 2023. This popularity, coupled with higher profitability of ramen shops outside Japan, positions Yoshinoya for potentially lucrative growth in the international market.

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