On March 10, 2022, MBA students at Vietnam-Japan University had a chance to join the special seminar by Yoshinoya Holdings. The topic was “Basic Knowledge of Marketing and Marketing Cases in Food Industry.” Ms. Wirachapan Sutharat from Global Human Resources Strategy Division was the main speaker. Yoshinoya Holdings is the owner of a reputational franchise restaurant – Yoshinoya (吉野家) – the world’s first and most prominent restaurant. The first store of the Yoshinoya opened in 1899 in the Nihonbashi fish market. Over 123 years of development, the number of Yoshinoya‘s stores has reached more than 2000 globally.
Opening the seminar, Ms. Sutharat shared basic knowledge about marketing with definitions such as segmentation, positioning, branding, targeting. The concepts of “marketing” and “branding” always go hand in hand in any business. There are similarities and differences between them, but not everyone can distinguish them clearly. She gave numerous examples and quoted legendary marketing expert Philip Kotler’s definition of marketing to help students understand marketing terms. After introducing marketing, Ms. Sutharat referred the marketing in the foodservice industry and started with the issues in the industry. Then, she presented three triangles in strategic management to create a successful marketing plan: strategy, tactic, and value.
Next, Ms. Sutharat deeply analyzed and compared the elements constituting strategy and tactics. In the strategy, there are four elements of market segmentation, target market, positioning, and market share in the minds of customers. The company segmented the market into four geographical, demographic, psychological, and behavioral subgroups. The segmentation and analysis have resulted in impressive numbers in the growth of the company’s store volume from 1 store in 1958 to 100 stores in 1977 and reached 400 stores in 1985.
Regarding targeting, the company is also expanding its sales channels to the Gen X population (including the elderly and dysphagia patients). The company has also developed and marketed products for the elderly who have difficulty chewing and swallowing. Besides the big names in the food service industry such as Coca Cola, Starbucks, Yoshinoya with the positioning strategy of “stand out from competitors,” known as not only a restaurant but also a place that brings customers convenience, warmth, and enjoyment of food for the customer and in the mind of the customer. Her vivid examples of Yoshinoya, Cocacola, Starbuck, KFC, etc. gave students interesting stories about marketing in the food industry and drew many practical lessons. In the tactical section, there are four elements: differentiators, sales activity, marketing mix, and market share in the customer’s mind. A good example of product differentiation is the health functional food menu as it was introduced in the previous seminar. サラ牛 (Sala gyu), GABA牛 (GABA gyu), ペプ牛 (Pepu gyu) . In terms of sales, Yoshinoya‘s products are fresh, contain many nutrients, and are more competitive than other fast-food brands. Regarding marketing mix with 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion), Yoshinoya chose the flow of values as follows:
Market share in the mind of the customer is included in Yoshinoya‘s strategy and tactics. The company has conducted a number of surveys in the target countries (such as Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines) to have a summary of characteristics of consumption behavior by countries and generations. Finally, Ms. Sutharat shared the difference between marketing with sale promotion and marketing with brands. Marketing creates a mechanism that would make customers buy products, while sell promotion sells existing products. Marketing, advertising define who we are, while branding defines who they are in the mind of the customer.
After the sharing, Ms. Sutharat spent additional time answering the questions and concerns of the students attending the seminar. The questions revolved around the business strategies in Vietnam, the methods of business expansion in foreign markets, and so on. Besides Ms. Sutharat, Mr. Hisashi Nagahiro (長広尚之さま) , General Director of Global HR Strategy Division of Yoshinoya Holdings also joined the seminar. He also gave his answer to a question from some students about Yoshinoya Holdings‘ development plans, especially the plan to open restaurants in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. In addition, Ms. Sutharat and Mr. Nagahiro also shared about the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the company’s business strategies in recent years and how the company has overcome difficulties during the epidemic situation.