Watami Co.

CEO Miki Watanabe

Message to young people
To the young people who have dreams, such as starting a business, I would like to tell them: “Think about what you want to do and set a date to achieve your dream.” If you have a deadline for your dream, what you should do today becomes clear, and then your actions will change from today.

I traveled through the northern hemisphere with a sleeping bag when I was at university and I found that no matter what country I was in, no matter the race of the people, they looked so happy when there was good food, good atmosphere, good service and good company. I wanted to create that kind of happy ambiance. In New York, I was fascinated by a rock 'n' roll bar called Kenny's Castaways, and opening a place like that became my objective.

I came back to Japan in March at the age of 22 and I set a target date for achieving my dream . I set out to become president of my own company by April 1 of the year I turned 24. I thought about how I could become a company president in two years and decided to enter an accounting company to acquire the accounting knowledge necessary for managing. Then, to generate funds, I worked at a delivery company for a year and saved 3 million yen.

It was fortunate that I met Mr. Seiji Ishii, then president of Tsubohachi, a big chain of Japanese-style bars (izakaya), when I was about to open a small Japanese-style bar with just 3 million yen. I had a friend from high school who was working at Tsubohachi to gain experience for eventually helping me once I opened my own izakaya. When my friend told Mr. Ishii about quitting Tsubohachi to work for me, Mr. Ishii said I should visit him. Upon hearing my plans, he said my izakaya would go bust in six months and suggested that I buy and run one of his Tsubohachi izakaya instead. That was my startup. By focusing solely on the customers, I managed to double sales in three months and profit increased tenfold.

I opened an izakaya called Watami in 1992. But after the opening of first Watami, the nearby Tsubohachi's sales dropped by half. I was told by Tsubohachi that if I wanted to keep the Tsubohachi izakaya I was running, I must close Watami. While my 13 Tsubohachi restaurants were making 400 million yen to 500 million yen in profits, the Watami restaurant had no profit at that time. However, I chose to go with Watami. It was a big decision.

Sharing a principle is important for motivating employees. My company’s shared target now is to “become a group that gathers the most 'thank you’s on the Earth.” With that mission, we entered into nursing care, agriculture and environment sectors, as we believe these fields where people are currently struggling. I want to do things are complimented by people into the 22nd century.

Company Profile

Watami Co.
Food-service industry