Sustainable Tourism in Japan - innovation & inspiration

Better than Business As Usual – Ethical Innovation at Curry House CoCoIchibanya

Inbound visitors to Japan are continuing to increase and some food chains are innovating the way they have always done business to better accommodate the needs of international customers. A stand-out example is CocoIchibanya, the international curry-rice chain that has spread from Japan throughout Asia. Coco’s started in 1978 and has expanded upon their domination across Japan to 155 stores overseas as of May 2018. The first overseas shop opened in Hawaii in 1994 and then in China in 2004.

Environmental Steward
Coco’s CSR information clearly shows how the company is making efforts to reduce its energy consumption while reducing its waste. Coco’s participates in collaborative projects with the Food Bank, Red Cross and Charities that support kids in need. Specifically, the company now has almost 8% of its stores operating all-electric (IH) kitchens which reduces heat in the store as well as overall energy demands. All staff clean neighborhood areas every day, collect old stamps, clothing and PET bottle caps to pass on to volunteer groups. More than 800 of their stores use LED lights (62%) and they have reduced electrical consumption at main offices by more than 20% over the last 10 years as well as reduced paper use by more than 10% in the same time period. Even the welcome mats at all of their stores are also made from recycled PET (plastic) bottles.

In terms of managing food waste, they claim to be moving into the food-agriculture business to supply more of their vegetables from local sources. Coco’s also donates food to the Food Bank as well as recycles (reuse) waste oil from their shops into fertilizer, feed, detergent and eco-fuels at a rate of over 800 kilograms per store each year.

Social Support
According to the CoCo’s website, 1% of all profits are donated to community building activities. I saw this commitment to charity work in action as CoCo’s provided free curry and rice lunches all day to evacuees and volunteers at the Ninoshima clean-up center after the Hiroshima landslide disaster of 7/7/2018.

In terms of supporting the international community including visitors, Coco’s has become a business leader. I often hear from visitors that they are frustrated by the lack of menus in Japan in other languages, but Coco’s has one of the best multilingual menus I’ve seen in Japan. All of their stores in Japan have multilingual menus (English, Chinese and Korean) and some have additional menus in Russian, Portuguese and Spanish. At 191 stores in Japan, customers can also ask for the multilingual Vegetarian menu showing an assortment of curries made without meat or fish stock. In 2017, two restaurants catering to Halal diners have opened in the Tokyo area. Coco’s has long had an allergy-free menu as well which clearly lists all ingredients for diners with special dietary requirements.

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