Business Lesson 1 of 7: How to set up a Bar, Restaurant, or Nightclub

Welcome to the beginning of a 7 part series about how to start your own bar, restaurant, or nightclub business in Japan.

Lesson 1 of 7: Introduction and First Steps (How to set up a Bar, Restaurant, or Nightclub)

Congratulations on taking the first steps toward opening a business in Japan!

During this course, I will introduce you to the steps you must take to open a restaurant, bar, or combination restaurant/bar in Japan. (Throughout this course, for simplicity’s sake I will refer to these combinations as simply a “restaurant”.) And here you can find a list of good books about running a business in japan.

I will provide you with access to legal documents you must complete and information about how to file them, as well as give you some industry-specific information and tips on how to open and run your new business successfully.

Basic Syllabus
Each lesson in this course will cover a different topic area for opening a successful restaurant, bar, or nightclub in Japan.

At the end of each lesson, I will list specific tasks for you to complete to help you succeed at each stage of your business development. If you complete each step thoughtfully and carefully, you will be well on your way to conducting a successful business in Japan.

Now on with Lesson 1:

During Lesson 1, I’ll cover the following topics:

  • Defining Your Restaurant Type
  • Researching Your Market
  • Choosing a Location
  • Defining Your Restaurant Type

Since 1969, when Japanese Foreign Capital Law was revised so that foreign-capital restaurants in Japan could operate freely, restaurant businesses from abroad have penetrated the Japanese market openly through direct investment or by operating agreements. During the next few years, especially after the Osaka Expo, American fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and Pizza Hut penetrated the Japanese market. Today, the breadth of international and native Japanese dining establishments is as wide as the ever-expanding culture in the country, and there is still room for expansion in the food industry.

If you have not already decided which type of restaurant you want to open, you will need to give this some careful thought. The answer to this question will determine how you will proceed in opening your business; for example, what type of suppliers to seek out, advertising media choices, what kind of certifications you will need, and much more.

One option is to research franchises. The main benefit of a franchise is that most of the work is done for you. Also, the name of the restaurant is most likely already familiar to your potential audience, which will save you cost and effort in advertising. The following site is full of information about franchises of all types in Japan. (Please note, this website is written in Japanese. If you are unable to read Japanese, find someone willing to translate the information for you.) Check out Franchise Times

Whichever type of restaurant you choose to open, making this decision early in the business development process will help smooth the process for you.

Researching Your Market

The population and conditions of your target area may dictate the type of restaurant you choose to open. Collect the following information about the area in which you’re considering opening your store:

  • Population
  • Average income levels
  • Age dispersion of population
  • Average facilities rental and purchase prices
  • Competition – other restaurants in the area, and their type, menu, price levels, etc.

Completing this research will help you learn more about your business, where you should operate it, and what you can expect after it is open. This information will also be needed to develop your business plan. (I’ll cover Business Plans in Lesson 3.)

Choosing a Location

The population and conditions of your target area may dictate the type of restaurant you choose to open. Here are some issues to consider when choosing a location for your store:

Consider whether you should purchase or rent. Depending upon the area, buildings for purchase may be at a premium.

Consult with a local real estate agent familiar with the area. He or she will be able to provide you with valuable information about the location, the market, and will help you find suitable facilities for your restaurant.

Consult with business owners or other local resources about strategies for negotiating with real estate agents and/or building owners.

Consider ease of access to the restaurant – is the location convenient for your customers to get to? Also, will suppliers have easy access to deliver goods?

When comparing possible facilities, be sure to examine the sometimes hidden costs, such as maintenance, average heating and cooling costs, and adaptability. These factors can vary greatly from building to building, and from region to region.

Here are some books worth reading about opening a bar, restaurant, or nightclub.


Thanks for reading, stay tuned for Lesson 2! (which is now live: Business Legal Requirements)

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