In a classic example of carrying coals to Newcastle, CoCo Ichibanya, a chain of curry and rice specialty restaurants with headquarters in Ichinomiya City, Aichi Prefecture, made headlines in 2020 when it announced plans to offer its dishes to consumers in the home of curry, the Indian subcontinent. Specifically, in the capital city of India, New Delhi.
The shop was forced to close temporarily due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Yukan Fuji (Sept 23) reports that it's open again, and amazingly -- or perhaps not -- enjoying robust business.
The chain opened its first overseas branch in the United States in 1994, and subsequently began operations in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and other overseas locations.
According to Hirosuke Nakamura, chief operating officer (COO) of Ichibaya India, the majority of customers of the establishment in New Delhi were Japanese compatriots posted in India. But perhaps out of curiosity, more Indian patrons began flocking to the restaurant, and the percentage of natives began creeping up. By last December, they had become the majority of customers.
The outlet was forced to close from May through June, but after reopening in July, Indians accounted for about 70% of the patrons.
Indian customers' dietary restrictions are more complicated than in Japan, since for religious purposes many Indians refrain from eating beef and/or pork. Many are strict vegetarians. Therefore the dishes served in CoCo Ichi do not use ingredients made from animal fats. While chain outlets in Japan are praised for their katsu-kare (curry over rice with a breaded pork cutlet) and cheese curry, the "stars" on the menu in India are vegetable curry and curry with breaded chicken cutlets.
As far as the degree of spiciness, Indian customers who complain the dishes are overly bland may request additional spice at no extra charge. Nevertheless, the most popular level of spiciness for customers tends to be the "standard" variety.
Recently, the article also reported, curry udon (wheat noodles) have also been offered for a limited period, and have proved to be a hit with the locals.
The average outlay per customer, 675 rupees or approximately 1,000 Japanese yen, is roughly comparable with the amount spent by customers in Japan. This is somewhat on the high side in India, suggesting that customers come from affluent income segments. Most appear to be males employed by large companies, with ages ranging from late 20s to 40s.
On Sept 10, Suman Das (phonetic), a 43-year-old wage earner employed in the agribusiness sector, brought several of his friends to accompany him for a Japanese-style curry repast. Das, who's particularly fond of chicken katsu curry and curry combined with an omelet, told Yukan Fuji's reporter that this was his seventh visit to the shop.
"I expected the taste would be something on the bland side, but was surprised at its rich aroma," Das said. "The spices are used differently than they are in Indian dishes, but it tastes pretty good."© Japan Today