For years, British entertainment executive Dan Chuter has been coming to Japan, managing solo violinist Diana Yukawa ... and for years, he has wondered why he couldn’t find an authentic British fish & chips shop in Japan.
So he decided to do something about it, and with two Japanese partners, he recently opened Malins just opposite Tokyo Midtown. Malins takes its name from Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who is believed to have opened the first fish & chips shop in London in 1860. Today, there are an estimated 8,500 fish & chips shops in the UK.
Chuter says the dream to open a fish and chips store in Tokyo goes back about seven years. “I was fascinated with Japanese interest in British things. Japanese friends always mentioned how they enjoyed fish & chips, but I noticed there were no real fish & chips shops here. There were pubs where they served French fries and fish deep frozen with batter before it is fried, but that’s not what we think of as fish & chips in Britain.”
Last autumn, Chuter and his two Japanese business partners -- Ryuhei Takizawa and Shingo Kanaoya – decided to go for it. “They came to London for research, to eat a lot and learn about the fish & chips culture. We were driving around, buying samples from all the best fish & chips shops in London.”
The next task was to find a location in Tokyo. Timing was perfect as a site opposite Tokyo Midtown became available. “The initial plan was to send everything from the UK,” Chuter says. “The fryer range was made in Japan but modified to get more depth, and the chipping and rumbling machines (that peel potatoes) came from the UK.” Chef/fryer advisors came from the UK and Malins opened its doors on July 20. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 9 a.m.
So what makes Malins better? “The difference is in the taste which is sensational because we do everything fresh,” Chuter says. “We peel and chip the potatoes on site, nothing added. We get cod from a national heritage site Hokkaido, absolutely top quality and battered on site using our own batter mix. We can deliver on volume at a high standard, up to 60 portions in 30 minutes.”
Chuter says one of the challenges is educating Japanese consumers about real British fish & chips culture. “They have different views on what eating fish and chips is all about. Some think it is just a snack. Some think it is just fries. Here, they tend not to take it home to eat.” Business so far has been fairly consistent throughout the day, even early in the morning, Chuter says. “Some customers actually come in for breakfast. One guy came in every day for a week. He loves the battered sausage.”
Marketing has been mainly through word of mouth. So far the customer split has been 50% foreign (mainly British people and Australians) and 50% Japanese. “I think that when Japanese see British people eating here really endorses it,” says Chuter.
Future additions to the menu include pies and English beer. Chuter and his partners also have their sights set on a restaurant. “This store is meant to be takeaway because we don’t have much seating. However, we are aware that a restaurant is more the market, so we are seriously thinking about that next.”© Japan Today