Shinobu Fujisaki talks of aiming to make Dom Dom everyone’s favorite burger joint.  

Dom Dom Burger is a classic burger chain in Japan. Though not quite as famous as the other fast food giants, it was Japan’s first ever hamburger chain, and, thanks in part to its pretty unique burger creations, it has a legion of dedicated fans willing to fight for its place in the ranking of burgers in Japan.

This year, they’re celebrating 50 years in business, and they just opened a new branch in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood, called the Asakusa Hanayashiki branch. To commemorate the event, they held a preopening event for the new branch, to which our own Mr. Sato was invited. There he got to listen to the president of Dom Dom Food Service, Shinobu Fujisaki, one of Japan’s few female top executives, talk about taking on the role of Dom Dom’s president during the company’s restructuring, and where she hopes to take the company from here.

Here’s a little bit of background on Dom Dom. The fast food chain was originally managed by Orange Food Court Group, Inc., which is owned by the supermarket giant Daiei. In May 2017, the Dom Dom franchise was purchased by Rembrandt Investment (a subsidiary of Rembrandt Holdings) and Shinsei Corporate Investment, and the Dom Dom Food Service Corporation was established to manage Dom Dom Burger. The resulting restructuring meant major changes were in store for the beloved burger joint.

At that time, there were 47 Dom Dom Burger branches throughout the country, but as the changes were implemented, many underperforming and internally competing stores closed, until just 27 remained around the country. Up until the recent opening of the new branch in Asakusa, just one of those branches was in Tokyo, in the northwestern Nerima Ward.

But in spite of that–or perhaps because of it–a huge crowd came to the Asakusa Hanayashiki branch’s pre-opening. To Mr. Sato, that’s proof of how many people love the old burger chain.

Shinobu Fujisaki herself has an interesting resume. Having spent much of her adult life as a housewife, she didn’t get her first job until she was 37, when she worked at the Shibuya 109 shopping mall in Tokyo. There she learned about sales and buying, and in time she opened up her own izakaya pub. Still a full-time mother, she managed to work hard and make her bar so successful that she opened a second one.

▼ Fujisaki’s original burger idea: “Handmade Thick Omelet Burger”. (photo taken at its release in 2017)

In November 2017, she began to work as a member of Rembrandt Investment’s business recovery team, and contributed greatly to the brand’s revitalization by developing popular products like the “Handmade Thick Omelet Burger”. After that, she worked in supervisory roles in Dom Dom Burger chains, and even as a restaurant manager, until she became the corporation’s president in 2018. She’s an unusual executive who makes sure to spend time in the businesses she manages, frequently visiting each of the branches in person.

At the Asakusa shop’s preopening event, Fujisaki spoke in front of the press about taking over Dom Dom Burger, and where the beloved burger shop is going in the future.

Reporter: When Dom Dom Food Service took control of Dom Dom Burger, I heard it was in quite a tough spot. Did you feel a lot of pressure taking up the reins of such a project?

Fujisaki: “Instead of feeling pressure, I felt like it was more of a privilege to take over Dom Dom Burger, because I knew it was a brand that many people loved. I think because it’s Japan’s first burger chain, there are many people that are attached to it. I braced myself for the challenge of living up to their expectations.”

▼ Dom Dom’s exclusive face mask

Reporter You’ve done collaborations with fashion brands and developed an original Dom Dom face mask to sell online. You even decorated a room of the Rembrandt Style Sapporo hotel entirely in Dom Dom decor. You have some pretty original ideas. 

Fujisaki: “I think of our motto as something like, ‘We make delicious and fun things in order to bring a smile to our customer’s faces’. Delicious things are the established norm, the minimum goal. Nowadays you can go anywhere to eat good food, so I think it’s important to go above and beyond that and add something special to our brand. I really just want our customers to have fun, to see them smile.”

Reporter: So the mask is part of the plan to make people smile?

Fujisaki: “We originally started the masks to help protect our employees who work at the shops. There was a period when masks were hard to find, right? So I proposed creating my own company, then designed many prototypes and tested them out myself. The result is the Dom Dom mask you can buy now. A lot of the people who bought them seem to really like them, so I’m glad. In a way maybe this made people smile, too.”

Reporter: What has been your biggest concern in regards to coronavirus?

Fujisaki: “Maintaining communication with the staff, I think. I try to go to the restaurants whenever I can, but because of the social distancing recommendations, I couldn’t just go anywhere I wanted, so I kept in touch with the shop’s staff via Line messaging. This branch [the Asakusa Hanayashiki branch] is the first branch to open since the Himeji branch in February 2018, so I made sure to let my staff know that it was because of them that we could make it happen.”

Reporter: I see. I thought it would be about costumer numbers. 

Fujisaki: “In order to serve the costumers, we need restaurant staff, so I make sure to make communication a priority, no matter what.”

Reporter: Are there plans to open more branches?

Fujisaki: “We are looking at plans to open more branches in larger cities in the future.”

▼ Dom Dom Asakusa Hanayashiki branch’s special “Whole!! Crab Burger”

Reporter: Then, will we see a lot of branches opening up soon?

Fujisaki: “No, we don’t plan to compete in numbers. Instead, I want to focus on creating each branch to be specifically suited to its location. For example, this Asakusa Hanayashiki branch was designed with a very Japanese style. We made it a shop that would fit into the Asakusa neighborhood. I want to make all of the branches we open in the future number one for our customers, so rather than being the restaurant with the most branches, we want to be the restaurant that the most customers love.”

Our reporters are already there, as our staff writer Seiji Nakazawa was so excited to have a new Dom Dom Branch in Tokyo that the night before the opening, he couldn’t sleep. The first hamburger Mr. Sato ever ate was a Dom Dom Burger, so he’s overjoyed that he can now relive a nostalgic childhood memory in Tokyo.

Of course, since we went to the preopening event, we couldn’t help but try out one of the Asakusa Hanayashiki branch’s original menu items, the Whole!! Crab Burger! If you find yourself in the neighborhood of Asakusa, don’t hesitate to try out this new iteration of a classic, historical Japanese burger shop.

Photos © SoraNews24
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