The LBD Bar & Lounge, Debuting in Honolulu, Hawaii, Caters to Younger Demographics. But It’s Not the Only New Brand CEO Tomo Takahashi Has Up His Sleeve.
This year is proving to be JINYA Holdings' biggest growth push to date, and the brand is putting the requisite infrastructure in place to handle such expansion.
The chain formed partnerships with vendors like Impossible Foods, Olo, and Hyperlocology. In August, it tapped software program Placer.ai to help with real estate selection, including identification of trade areas aligning with core customers and cannibalization studies to determine how many locations can fit in one market. The year prior, the company inked an agreement with FranFast, a management suite assisting with four key pillars—franchise development manager, new store opening tracker, franchise compliance tracker, and franchise communities. All of this is in addition to strengthening corporate staff.
The company's star chain, the roughly 50-unit JINYA Ramen Bar, is projected to open more than 15 locations this year in new and existing markets. Systemwide AUV has reached $2.85 million, with the top one-third earning $4 million. bushi by JINYA, a takeout-only restaurant, is expected to expand its presence in Southern California.
However, the biggest leap came in Hawaii, when JINYA decided to fill a 10,000-square-foot restaurant space with three of its brands—JINYA Ramen Bar, Robata JINYA, and its newest concept, LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge. That now puts the company at five concepts total, including JINYA Ramen Express.
LBD offers a number of Japanese alcoholic beverages and signature cocktails, like the Frozen Spicy Toki (Toki Japanese Whisky, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, ginger syrup, passionfruit syrup, grapefruit juice, and lime juice) and the Lelelele Sour (Nobushi Japanese Whiskey, Disaronno Originale, pineapple juice, and cinnamon syrup). The food menu is headlined by kushiyaki (skewered food items), sashimi, sushi, and hand rolls.
FSR recently spoke with JINYA CEO Tomo Takahashi to learn more about his new restaurant and its upcoming growth opportunities in the U.S. The executive also discusses additional plans for JINYA Ramen Bar and even more concepts that are underway.
Note: Takahashi's answers were received through a translator.
How would you describe the branding of LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge compared to your other restaurants?
So originally [Takahashi] opened JINYA Ramen Bar and Robata JINYA, and he had so many kinds of Japanese whiskey, Japanese beer, Japanese sake—great quality he offered to guests, and our guests really enjoyed our selection of the liquors. And recently, the Japanese sake, Japanese whiskey are quite popular in the United States. And so what we have done, our main was the Japanese food and serving the liquor. But for this concept, this time, our focus is the Japanese alcohol and we serve with the Japanese food.
How does the customer base differ among the concepts?
Our customer for Robata JINYA, especially for the Honolulu, Hawaii, location, they usually come to celebrate something or have a date or a special occasion. We have a happy birthday plate and we celebrate for their birthday, and they usually look nice. Groups of people or couples usually come for Robata JINYA. For JINYA Ramen Bar, that's going to be more casual compared to the Robata JINYA and more for like a family. For LBD, It’s more like a younger crowd. They come for drinks.
What made Honolulu the best place to open the first ever LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge?
When we think of the concept, the best location is going to be either Los Angeles, California, or Hawaii. The reason is of course that the weather is great and the guests can enjoy outdoor patios. [Takahashi] found a really great location for this concept. That's why we opened the first one in Hawaii.
What’s the growth strategy for LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge? What markets are you exploring? Is it a franchisable concept?
Anywhere in Hawaii or California—that’s what [Takahashi's] thinking. We do not consider franchising at this moment. So we will plan to increase the number of corporate stores first and with timing or with opportunity we will in the future [consider] franchise.
JINYA, Robata JINYA, and LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge are all housed under one roof in this Hawaii location. Does this type of format exist elsewhere in the U.S.? Is it something we’ll see more of going forward?
Regarding this, we're not sure moving forward, but when we find a really big-sized restaurant site, there is a possibility. We don't know how many concepts we will put into it, but it can be JINYA Ramen Bar and LBD or Robata JINYA and LBD.
I also noted JINYA Ramen Bar opened its first casino-based location. You mentioned in a quote that placing a JINYA Ramen Bar inside a casino has been a sought-after dream. What makes the concept work so well in this environment? Will there be more of these in the future?
So there are many ways to enjoy JINYA Ramen Bar. So let's say the guests who go to quickly eat ramen and go back to the casino—they can do that. It's not fast food, but they can enjoy ramen quickly and then go back. They can also go as a just a regular dinner, and they enjoy tapas and beer and then after that they enjoy ramen. Of course we have a great ambience. So there are many ways to use JINYA Ramen Bar. So it fits really well with casinos. Moving forward, we have some discussion of opening one in a Las Vegas hotel. We do have a lot of opportunities. So yes, definitely. We will increase.
What other new concepts is your team working on?
We do have two new concepts. One is called Saijo. The concept is kushiyaki and hand rolls. The kushiyaki is like a yakitori, a skewer. It's a really simple menu, Like an ‘abc’ menu—A, $30. B, $40, C, $50. We already have a site in midtown Houston, Texas, and we are going to open one in spring or summer 2023. The second concept is Shirogane Bakery. For that one we are going to open in L.A once we find a good site.