The Japanese quick service restaurant Edo Japan has been cooking up a new restaurant design and aggressive expansion plans for its chain with a focus on moving into the Ontario market.
David Minnett, president and CEO of the Calgary-based company, told Retail Insider that the chain has done tremendously well over the years primarily based in Western Canada and has averaged growth over the last 10 years of same store sales of about 3.6 per cent.
“It’s on trend. It’s healthy and a lot of its historical principles and drivers of what made it successful – made-to-order, fresh and that transparency that comes with that grill front and centre in front of the customer – are all things that today’s millennials want and desire. So there’s lots of good things there, along with calling it an ethnic cuisine that in our case is Japanese, and new experiences. So you’ve got this wonderful thing that’s already poised for growth and expansion,” says Minnett.
The company was founded in Calgary with its first location at the Southcentre Mall in 1979. Today, it has 115 locations with about 80 per cent of its stores in Alberta. There are about 18 stores in British Columbia and about six to eight in Saskatchewan.
Minnett says Edo Japan will open its first Manitoba location in Winnipeg in the next three months.
Edo Japan has a couple of food court mall locations in Ontario but plans to open its first street locations mid-year next year in the southern Ontario market.
“We have just started our foray going East and just have kind of formalized tenant rep broker partnerships with three or four organizations to cover Manitoba and Ontario with,” says Minnett.
Minnett says the company has spent a lot of money and time getting ready to launch its new street format and take it East.
“We’re still in the QSR business. When you think that we only need a population base of 25,000 or 30,000, it isn’t so much in the near term having any issues about how much upside, it’s really for us how much we want to go market by market, get success, work with franchise partners that have the wherewithal to be able to do more than one store and new growth will come,” says Minnett.
“We’re probably planning 15 to 20 over the next two years and that would be national but that would also represent next year getting in and establishing a beachhead for our street format in both Manitoba and Ontario.”
That new format will build on the fundamentals that have already worked. The grill is the hero and the whole customer flow is designed for speed of service.
“It’s still a little bit of a secret,” says Minnett. “It’s a more modern version of where we’ve been with some opportunities to actually make the grill more transparent – a little bit more the theatre – as well as we’ve got some what I would call grab and go and market menu additions that will enable us to probably unlock sushi to a whole new level. Our sushi sales.”
Edo Japan will also be launching online mobile ordering so people can order ahead and pick up food.
Those initiatives are expected to take hold in early 2018.
Minnett says the restaurant has done a lot of work over the past 12 to 18 months to elevate and innovate its menu. For example, there’s a whole new category of premium bowl which has proven to be quite popular.