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Twenty years on the Champs-Elysees: What makes Japonais popular?
At 1:00 pm Thursday afternoon. All tables on the second floor are filled with lunchs. The restaurant is busy thanks to tables being turned over more than two times.
Most of guests at lunch time are from offices in the neighborhood. Why is this place so popular - 20 years in business?

There are few long-established Japanese restaurants in Paris.
While it is quite difficult for a Japanese food service business to succeed in this city, Japonais has been in business for 20 years - quite remarkable.
The restaurant is located in a business district 200 meters from the Champs-Elysees. SHinpo interviewed Mr. Takeno, the restaurant manager, to find out how they did it.

Photo on left: all employees have worked here for more than ten years. Probably, this restaurant's good working environment is reflected in customer service and the cooking. Many successful restaurants have long-time employees. From left, Mr. Nakazawa, chef, a Sri Lankan who is in charge of dishwashing Mr. Takeno, the restaurant manager and the Japanese female staff in charge of guest service. Photo on right: The restaurant is located in an office complex, 200 meters north of the Champs-Elysees. This building's wooden exterior stands out, creating a retro atomosphere surrounded by stone structures.

We have prepared the dishes meticulously with great care.

Well-dressed office worker come to the restaurant with his friend.

The most popular lunch menu is Yakiniku Teishoku that comes with bibimbap, rice mixed with seasoned vegetables.

Q1: How did you continue this restaurant for 20 years?
A1: To be honest, I can't give you a simple explanation. I believe that the food service business is really difficult because numerous elements exist and they intricately affect each other. We suddenly lose customers after business was good. We still stumble upon such a situations. While we struggle with figuring out the cause of losing customers, they come back. Sometimes we found out that our regular customers were transferred to other areas due to large scale personnel restructuring.
Q2: What is difference between restaurants that go out of business and restaurants that stay in business?
A2: What I appreciate is that our regular customers give us continued support. Most of them are French workers from offices in this neighborhood and appreciate our dishes as authentic Japanese cuisine. There are many Japanese restaurants where non-Japanese prepare the dishes and non-Japanese staff wait on guests. In our restaurant, most of the cooking and service is done by Japanese staff. French customers who like this bring their friends to our establishment.
Q3: I heard that the tables were filled with reservations.
A3: We ask customers to make a reservation as
much as possible. We even take reservations for lunch. Of course, the table turn-over drops, but we don't make them wait and want them to enjoy dishes at tables with enough space since they have taken the time to come to the restaurant. This may affect our sales, however, we place the priority on customer satisfaction, viewing the business from a long term perspective. Usually tables are filled with customers who have reservations both at lunch and dinner. The pursuit of no short-term profit may be seen as a customer-oriented strategy by diners and helped us win regular customers. But in general, our food is well prepared and I guess the delicate balance of flavor that can be offered only by a Japanese chef has earned high marks from French gourmands. There are not many Japanese restaurants in Paris where Japanese chefs prepare the dishes.
Q4: What is the reason that your employees continue to work for a long time?
A4: It is probably that this restaurant is an employee-friendly work place. Customers can sense good teamwork and relationship among emplyees. Customers can be happy dining at a restaurant which is a pleasant work place. When I see customers who used to be regular diners after a long absense, I'm really glad that I have chosen this job.
Testimonials: 20 years in business

A group of six mothers whose children go to a Japanese supplemental school. They have met for lunch seven times, and so far and have come to Japonais twice. Since they don`t have to worry about their hair and clothing absorbing Yakiniku odor, They can enjoy Yakiniku. "French people are sensitive to odors. We can dine at this restaurant with our husbands,"said one mother, and the others agreed.   These three people work at a financal organization in this neighborhood. The man on the right comes to this restaurant three times a week and is skilled at using chopsticks and grilling meat.   The woman on the left has been a regular lunch for about ten years and comes to the restaurant every other month. Since she does not like sushi, she orders Yakiniku only.

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