Despite weak consumer spending, Oishi Group Plc is repositioning most of its food brands to reduce business cannibalisation and keep its distance from other Japanese food operators in the market.
Paisarn Aowsathaporn, executive vice-president for food business, said the repositioning programme began with its Shabushi restaurant chain gearing towards premium and healthy food. Less healthy items, which represented 30% of the menu, were replaced with premium dishes.
Paisarn: Keeping distance from rivals
The move resulted in a 10% increase in buffet prices at Shabushi to 399 baht per head since July 1.
"We're not concerned about the impact of our price rise because people are cautious about their spending and want quality and value-for-money dishes when the economy is not good," he said.
Apart from Shabushi (which serves shabu-shabu), the company will reposition its Nikuya buffet brand in the coming months before applying the concept to remaining mid-level brands including Oishi Buffet, Kakashi and Oishi Ramen.
Oishi Grand, its premium buffet restaurant, is not included in the repositioning scheme.
After the brand repositioning, Oishi food brands will be more sophisticated and premium with less business competition among its six brands, he said.
"The move will also help us stay away from other Japanese restaurants in the market, which like to use low prices to compete with each other," Mr Paisarn said.
Oishi chose to start the repositioning programme with Shabushi because the brand accounts for 66% of the company's food business. The company has a marketing campaign to explain the new Shabushi restaurant concept this month.
Mr Paisarn said the Japanese restaurant market in Thailand was worth 23.5 billion baht last year, a 15% increase from 2014.
Of the total, a la carte restaurants accounted for 11 billion baht, shabu outlets 4.3 billion baht, Japanese buffet joints 1.9 billion baht, yakiniku eateries 1 billion baht, ramen joints 2.5 billion baht, rice bowl restaurants 2 billion baht, with sushi outlets representing the rest.
Despite more offerings in the market, Japanese cuisine is still the most popular among Thai people, followed by Chinese and Korean fare.
The company will continue to expand its restaurant business this year, spending less than 600 million baht to open 20 new restaurants, lower than its earlier plan of 30-40 new outlets. This is because fewer retail complexes are opening this year.
OISHI shares yesterday closed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 85 baht, up 1.50 baht, in thin trade worth 85,900 baht.