The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores Suehiro
A Long-established Japanese Restaurant People Love in Mexico’s Second Largest City
Guadalajara / Mexico
For Years, We have been Constantly Working to Promote Japanese Food in Mexico
Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is known as the "Pearl of the West" for its beauty. Suehiro, a long-established Japanese restaurant in this city has been serving authentic Japanese cuisine since its opening in 1976. Wide menu selections include nigirizushi and sushi rolls and there is a variety of Japanese sake selection imported from Japan. “We have many loyal Mexican customers principally from Guadalajara and other areas as well.
The customers who have been here from its opening now bring their grandchildren or great-grandchildren to our restaurant. Lately, the number of such customers has been increasing”, Mr. Ichiyo Ishikawa, a manager at Suehiro genially says.
We can tell Suehiro is rooted to the city of “Guadalajara” as more than 90% of its customers are Mexican and the majority are repeat customers. Before its business hours, the phones are ringing off the hook for reservations. Right after it’s open, Mexican people of all ages and very different backgrounds, including families and couples, fill the restaurant. Suehiro is a "prime example of a successful Japanese restaurant in Mexico," but Ishikawa told us about the many hardships Suehiro has overcome to date.
“For a while after we opened, we couldn't even get basic Japanese ingredients such as rice and soy sauce, so we could not properly serve Japanese food to our customers. It was difficult to find even the very basic ingredients needed to serve Japanese dishes. Over time and by trial and error, we learned how to combine the ingredients we were able to obtain in Mexico, to serve Japanese food to our customers.”
When the restaurant first opened, it mainly served sukiyaki and shabushabu. Gradually it started serving sashimi and raw fish, but Mexican customers shunned them as they had a strong resistance to eating raw fish. Even so, in its desire to have its Mexican customers enjoy authentic Japanese food, Suehiro made various efforts, such as offering sashimi for free or serving thin slices of sashimi with ponzu. Suehiro even went to the extent of developing a seasoning that mixes Mexican chili peppers and soy sauce. Also, over the years it has worked hard and has evolved in order to get its Mexican customers to actually try Japanese food they were not familiar with.
A Sales Strategy Leveraging the Trust Suehiro Has Built Up over the Years with its Customers
The number of Mexican people who has visited Japan has been increasing every year due to a greater number of the flights between Mexico and Japan in recent years. Many customers come to Suehiro because they want to taste a meal they had in Japan. At present, people’s interest in Japanese Wagyu beef is growing more and more. Suehiro also uses a variety of Japanese ingredients, including Japanese salted jellyfish. Its Mexican customers are often surprised when they see salted jellyfish on the menu. Suehiro has been constantly seeking new ingredients and continues to include new items on the menu so that repeat clients don’t get bored. They carry a wide variety of dishes to entertain and satisfy its customers’ taste.
“Our main customers are loyal customers. Not only myself as a manager, but also the servers always try to communicate with them. In our conversations with them, we are often asked things such as “what is new on the menu?” or “what is today’s recommendation?” The customers ask such questions and welcome our recommendations with curiosity even though they are not familiar with ingredients or the dishes. This is possible because throughout the years we have built a strong relationship based on trust and communication”, says Ishikawa.
Mexico is Poised to Become the Leading Japanese Food Market in the Americas
After years of limited access to authentic Japanese food ingredients, the market has grown tremendously and the number of Mexican people who are fond of Japanese food has rapidly increased. Ishikawa has been involved with Japanese food in Mexico for many years. When we asked him about how the environment for Japanese food in Mexico will change in the future, he said, "Sushi rolls are still very popular among the Mexican clientele, but over the past few years, nigirizushi has also started to gain recognition and become more established in Mexico. The number of restaurants specializing in Japanese food is increasing rapidly in Mexico City, and I expect Guadalajara and other cities will have more and more restaurants specializing in Japanese food as well”.
“The days when Japanese sake and food ingredients were not available in Mexico is over. Suehiro also hopes to increase the amount and diversity of products it can purchase from Japan to provide authentic Japanese food more than ever before. With a population approaching 130 million and the presence of Japanese food growing, Mexico will become one of the largest markets for Japanese food in the Americas," says Ishikawa. In Guadalajara, Suehiro is the gateway to success for the Mexicans who dream of opening a Japanese restaurant. There are employees who were trained at Suehiro and went out on their own, as well as old-timers who joined the company at the age of 17 and recently retired. Forty-three years after its founding, customers and employees keep loving Suehiro and it will continue to take on more challenges in the future.