Chounan Restaurant Backstage
Now, if talking about rice topped with beef, Chounan will be the first name that many people think of. With delicate and rich taste for Thai people and clear atmosphere with minimal decoration in modern Japanese style, this restaurant is established by Khun Kulawat Purichayawarodom and his wife in 2009. Currently, there are 10 branches in many department stores and he has a plan to open next branch at community mall at Tha Maharaj and open 5 branches in next year.
From economics to Japanese restaurant
The path of being a restaurant owner of each person is different. Khun Kulawat graduated bachelor of economics from Kasetsart University and master of economics from Illinois University, USA. He worked about finance, investment and risk management all the time.
While the business has construction contract business, housing estate and mill which is not related to restaurant business, he told that the beginning of this restaurant that
“I am interested in retail business. In 4-5 years ago, we saw that the trend of Japanese fast food restaurant would go well. After that, I listed how fast food would meet the customers’ needs and I got the answer of rice topped with beef. At first, I intended to buy franchise to open in Thailand but 3 brands did not agree because Yoshinoya joined with Central already while Matsuya and Sukiya did not have a plan to expand branches, so I decided to do it myself”
When to decide between “get up” and “give up”
After developing good recipe, he opened a booth to test market at Siam Paragon. He took care of every step even slicing meat by himself. For 20 days he tried selling, it proved that his business got its way and he still had few competitors. So, he opened a restaurant at Sukhumvit 24 in café concept with target group of Japanese people. Everything seemed going well and his shop started to be widely known. However, after opening for a year and a half, he had to close it down due to location.
“The place we opened the restaurant had some kinds of lawsuit, many shops moved out while our shop was open for not long time. My family wanted me to quit because housing business could make more money. At that time, I had 2 ways to “get up” or to give up”.
With determination in thought and good research, he decided to move on by adjusting a strategy from café concept that customers would stay for long time and enjoy the shop atmosphere to be some kinds of more fast food way with change in target group to be mass from just Japanese people at that time. After obtaining space in Central Ladphrao as the first branch, he found that the business plan and strategies matched target group.
Understand target group, understand yourself
“In fact, I intended to make it more fast food but Thai people may not get used to it. Thai people like service and various menus. Our menus start from 69 Baht and if they want to add some extras, it will not be expensive,” he said.
Chounan has various menus such as rice topped with beef and pork with 3sizes and 3 prices divided as S, M and L. popular menu of rice topped with beef and pork is rice topped with beef/ pork + onsen egg, rice topped with beef/pork + mayonnaise and ice topped with beef/ pork + okono topping etc.
Apart from rice topped with beef , there are other menus to select such as noodles like Inaniwa Udon, Inaniwa Udon with tofu and onsen egg, salad type such as sweet corn salad, crispy tofu salad, crabstick salad, karaage salad, tuna salad. In this year, curry menu is added such as curry rice with onsen egg, curry rice with cheese, curry rice with pork Hamburg etc. the best-selling menus are rice topped with beef/ pork + onsen egg and Inaniwa Udon with tofu and onsen egg.
“For Inaniwa Udon with tofu and onsen egg, we use mentsuyu in soup and adapt Goma shoyu salad dressing with every salad menus. The reason why we select Ajinomoto products is good taste from the first time and the price is reasonable so we use it all along. I understand that Ajinomoto will have good sales too. Whenever we choose any product, we will look differently from chefs we will see which raw material can make us to have products all the time and the second thing is good taste not from me or my team’s perspective but it’s the guarantee word from customers”
Adapt and catch up with it
Survival and growth of a restaurant depends on ability to adapt with circumstances and behaviors of consumers that change all the time. The business plan for one plan may not work for another. Khun Kulawat has an idea to make Chounan as a brand of a restaurant with variety and present more specific things by area. Meanwhile, he also maintain personality of the brand in unity.
“Actually, we are developing new strategies that can respond needs of customers in each area because they have different needs such as at Central, the customers will be teenagers, working persons while at The mall Thaphra, most customers are old people. Asking if the old people would have rice topped with beef, I guess not so that’s why we have to sell something else. Chounan is trying to select to understand target groups better”
Furthermore, hew also see that restaurant business is rapidly growing. Therefore, emergence of many department stores and shopping complexes will be like a puzzle for restaurant brands to think how to adapt themselves suitably. In Bangkok. Restaurants have intense competition from a number of competitors while in upcountry; they have to face cultural problems of specific group consumption or local popularity. It is a question that the restaurant brands need to think how to answer it to respond such needs because popularity in first one or two years cannot guarantee success of the business in the long run.
Chounan is not only a good example of perseverance that the shoo owner should have, but it also shows thorough market studying to adapt to catch up with the period that consumers have more choices. Even though Khun Kulawat and his wife did not have fundamentals of restaurant, they have thinking capital and they study details and understand consumers truly which will help the business of the restaurant to grow and become stronger.