I recently spent two weeks travelling around Japan, starting in Tokyo we then went onto Kanazawa, Kyoto, Osaka and Fukuoka. The main reason for this trip was food, I am a huge lover of Japanese culture as a whole but the food is something truly special and I wanted to experience it in it’s rawest and truest form. Coming from a restaurant marketing background it was hard to not notice the sheer lack of it when it came to the majority of restaurants I visited.

This isn’t to say that we didn’t come across it, the Japanese have a real talent when it comes to branding and style, finding ways to draw you into their restaurants. A classic example of this is the ultra-realistic food that you find outside in glass cabinets, showing you everything that is on the menu. These are so perfect that on first glance you expect them to be real, all handmade and a work of art in their own right.

The Japanese also understand that the more photogenic something is, the more customers will visit. You will find queues of people lining up to take a photo of a coffee cup from Arabica Coffee in Kyoto or gold leaf ice cream in Kanazawa. Most of these customers are coming for a photo opportunity, not to actually eat and that is genius marketing. Apart from these examples for myself personally I found that the restaurants I visited had a severe lack of marketing, they were basic to look at and most of the time they didn’t even exist on google maps or anywhere on the web for that matter. The best way to find restaurants in Japan is through recommendations, exploring and looking for the locals.

The general rule is: if there is a queue and it is full of Japanese people (not including young teenagers grasping iPhones) then the food will be great, and expect to queue for up to two hours. As far as restaurant marketing strategies go it’s a fairly mixed bag. I left Japan with a host of great dinner and marketing ideas and a greater understanding of how important your product is and your branding is. An average restaurant can be successful with great branding and a fantastic restaurant can be successful without any marketing at all.

Where do we go from here? Square one it is…