2014.01.26 coco

Curry is pretty much the ultimate Japanese comfort food loved by children, adults and picky eaters alike. And with data showing that Japanese people eat curry more than once a week, it has definitely become one of the country’s national foods despite its Indian-British origins. And one curry restaurant in particular, Curry House Coco Ichibanya or “Coco Ichi” to its patrons, is reaping the benefits of this curry craze, claiming about 80% of the market share! With more than 1,200 shops in Japan and 116 overseas franchises, it seems like nothing can stop this curry giant.

As a casual curry restaurant, Coco Ichi has the advantage of catering to a changing society in Japan where families go out to eat more and busier working schedules means more people eat alone. This makes curry the perfect go-to food for a quick, easy and cheap meal. According to the market research firm Fuji Keizai, curry restaurants made 88.8 billion yen (US$888 million) last year, and Coco Ichi’s 1,267 franchise stores in Japan made a staggering 71 billion yen during the same period. Most other curry restaurants like Go! Go! Curry or Curry House San Marco are increasing the number of their own chain restaurants, but struggle to get 3-4% of the market.

▼Who wouldn’t love that plate of deliciousness?

2014.01.26 coco curryImage: RocketNews24

Sure, Coco Ichi’s curry is delicious and worthy of trying to replicate in your own home, but what is the secret behind the restaurant chain’s strength? While it doesn’t hurt that some stores reportedly give customers a second helping of curry for free, some market analysts say that a big reason for Coco Ichi’s strong positioning is the variety that their simple menu offers. 

Although customers are basically ordering curry sauce and rice, curry-lovers can choose their level of spice, the amount of rice and a huge variety of toppings to put on top, like a fried pork cutlet, a half-boiled egg or potato salad. Simplifying the menu by providing a basic product, but allowing customers the freedom to create their own curry dish is a great way to keep consumers happy with many choices while also making it easier on franchisee owners.

▼Of course, you can always order all of the toppings at once like we once did for a mere 9,210 yen

2014.01.26 coco everything on itImage: RocketNews24

But while Coco Ichi is the king of curry today, they still face many challenges such as trying to make sure money-minded customers feel like they are getting a good deal as the quality of ready-made curries continue to improve. Stores have been able in the past to lure customers in by advertising new curry toppings such as special local or regional toppings. But these kinds of campaigns aren’t so easy to maintain and may not be enough to attract new customers as take-out, delivery and even drive-through curry shops become the norm.

So the question for Coco Ichi is how to continue momentum in the curry market and keep driving customers back toward the familiar yellow signs dotting Japan that says “Curry House Coco Ichibanya.” With 80% market share and the Guinness world record for most curry shops worldwide, has Coco Ichi peaked? Or will it continue to reign over the curry kingdom as its benevolent, and delicious, ruler? Let us know in the comments below what you think about Coco Ichi and your thoughts about why it dominates the curry world!

Feature Image: Wikipedia
Source: Yahoo! Japan News