Being an expat in Japan is the dream of many people. However, it is difficult to find a decent job in Japan, especially in Tokyo. If you come to Japan with no Japanese ability, working in the kitchen of a restaurant would be a good option. Many foreigners had chosen this career path to go on. Some quit because of the strict rules in Japan customer service industry, as well as the working toughness due to labor shortage.
However, success stories of foreigners working in restaurants are not just a few. In this article we would like to introduce a typical story of success from a Ghanaian man who love what he is doing and do it better than anyone. It is Mr. George – Guest Relations Manager of one of the most outstanding restaurants in Tokyo: Lawry’s the Prime Rib.
First, let’s take a closer look to the restaurant that Mr. George is working now.
This restaurant was closed for renovation in 2014 and re-opened in September 2017. It’s originally from the USA back in 1930s and franchised to a Japanese company named “Wondertable”- known for their management of the best-qualified restaurants in Japan as well as around Asia (Thailand, Hongkong, China etc.). Lawry’s the Prime Rib so far has two branches in Tokyo, both located in relatively high-classed area, Akasaka and Ebisu.
Akasaka is a unique commercial and entertainment district in Tokyo, located between Nagatacho – Japan’s center of politics and Roppongi – Tokyo’s liveliest nightlife area. There are many newly constructed upmarket buildings in Akasaka, and “Akasaka Intercity Air” is an example.
Besides its office spaces, elegant design, and beautiful surroundings, the restaurants and bars here are highly rated, in which Lawry’s the Prime Rib has been caught in the spotlight.
Lawry’s the Prime Rib offers a classy and friendly atmosphere in which you can sit calmly and enjoy your exclusive meal with no worries of the outside bustle. High ceilings with gorgeous lighting, spacious round sofas, and a featured bar with a fancy wine “wall” (literally) is a great plus for this restaurant besides food. They don’t have private rooms like some Japanese restaurants, but thanks to the clever arrangement you can still have a long conversation with your friends or family in your own space.
No matter the Lawry’s the Prime Rib branch, their principles are strictly followed, and they bring the finest roast beef to their customers. Not only that, since we were also amazed by their unique way of serving it. Their specialized roast beef is cut on a huge silver cart before being served to your table. The silver cart was designed by Lawrence Frank himself, one of Lary’s the Prime Rib tow owners.
Combined in such a great way with cream corn, cream spinach, Yorkshire pudding, and smoothly mashed potatoes with fresh gravy sauce, the “Lunch Cut” beef we ordered had a great texture and perfectly melted inside our mouths, bringing some wonderful joy that was the highlight of our day. Western old-fashioned, but such a lovely treat for lunch!
When you order any beef set, it will come with a salad buffet, dessert buffet, and drinks (coffee or tea). It also comes with a free but savory butter bread at the beginning (like a free “table charge”). The beef will take a while, so you can enjoy their salad and bread first as you wait. However, the two long tables of various salad ingredients may fill up your stomach before you have your main dish, so be careful with that. Else you should skip breakfast and come to the restaurant around 11AM to enjoy a huge brunch!
And don’t forget to try the desserts! More than 10 kinds of delicious cakes and sweets such as coffee jelly, berry pudding, tiramisu, macaroni, etc. will be the perfect way to end things for any foodie soul.
What we noticed most when walking in this restaurant is that they have many foreign staff members, who are working at the reception, in the kitchen, and in the dining area. The presence of a foreign crew makes for a superb atmosphere, mixing excellent service with an “Omotenashi” performance.
Our kitchen is being run by 80% foreign staff members. Without them, our own style may not be maintained. We welcome all people no matter where they are from, as long as they are holding a proper visa, and are willing to work and train themselves in a professional environment in the food industry. We create a working concept in which every individual is given chances to prove their real strength, and we would love to equip them with the essential skills and knowledge through training sessions to bring out their best performance when serving our customers. – briefly said the General Manager of Lawry’s the Prime Rib, Mr. Yokomizo.
Wondertable – the management company of Lawry’s the Prime Rib has more than 600 foreign employees out of 2,200 total employees working in their seven foreign brands that they have bought franchises and run the restaurants in Japan. Why are there many foreigners working for Wondertable? Are they focus on recruiting foreigners, or the door is equally opened to everyone no matter whether their nationality is Japanese or not?
Company’s principle on human resources development
Further talking with Mr. Yokomizo, we know that Wondertable does not recruit people just based on their knowledge and experience in restaurant business. Their approach to recruitment is simple with two points. First, find “kashikoi” people. “Kashikoi” in Japanese means “smart”, but to them, it is not just the intelligence, they want “ka” (kansha – thoughtfulness), “shi” (shinsetsu – kindness) and “koi” (koukishin – great interest in food industry). Second, find people who agree and follow the corporate philosophy.
Anyone who can meet these requirements can work in Wondertable, regardless of their nationality. Thanks to this principle, the number of foreign employees in Wondertable is increasing and plays an important role in all restaurants.
Training and career orientation for foreign staff
To instill the corporate philosophy, Wondertable will deliver their messages to all employees once per week and meet in person once per six months. To strengthen the ability of foreign staff, they organize many training sessions on site as well as on lectures. Those training not only helps foreigners to acquire necessary knowledge and skills, but also improve their Japanese conversational level used for customer service as well as hold a clear vision of their career path.
Furthermore, thanks to short talks when having coffees or lunches together, and the performance evaluation, Wondertable can consult promptly for their staff’s problem, appreciate every individual’s value and provide the best environment for self-development.
Foreigner-friendly working environment
The nationality of the foreign staff in Lawry’s the Prime Rib varies greatly, which makes the working environment more opened and friendly to foreigners. As an example, there are currently people from Chile, Colombia, Nepal, Morocco, Chinese, Sri Lanka, and other countries. As we observed, the working environment is greatly open-minded, and there is no barrier between the foreign and Japanese staff. In the managerial level, there are two foreigners from Ghana and Iran working as Guest Relations Managers. They hold essential positions in the restaurant, working as coordinators who connect between the restaurant’s staff and customers, and as influencers who bring more new customers and maintain a friendly relationship with them. We were lucky to have the chance to talk to one of them, Mr. George from Ghana.
Mr. George is one of the most senior employees in Lawry’s the Prime Rib. He has been working here for 18 years of his 26-year life in Japan. Back to his first years in Japan in the early 1990s, Mr. George faced many obstacles as he could not speak any Japanese at that time, not to mention that his appearance was very “noticeable” to Japanese people.
Mr. George firmly decided to pursue a career in the food service industry, even though this is considered one of the toughest industries in Japan. He left his country for the Japanese dream, even though he had a stable job in a 5-star hotel in Ghana. With his related working experience and optimistic attitude, Mr. George soon got a job in a bar, and then at a hotel where he worked for more than 5 years to train himself more and to learn Japanese as well.
When Lawry’s the Prime Rib started its business in Japan with the first restaurant run by the Wondertable Company, Mr. George directly applied for a waiting staff position and passed the strict selection. He had spent 3 years challenging himself with multiple tasks before becoming a permanent employee (seishain). As Japan’s Lawry’s the Prime Rib celebrated its 18th birthday anniversary, Mr. George also marked his 18th year of commitment to the company.
If you have a short talk with Mr. George, you will soon find that he is a friendly person who is enthusiastic, thoughtful, and has very good customer service skills. This is why he is one of the company’s top employees, being their top sales performer. His story of success is so inspiring that JapanInfo wanted to deliver his message to all foreigners out there.
So why don’t you come visit Lawry’s the Prime Rib for a “fancy but not too fancy” lunch, or a memorable dinner with excellent dishes? And don’t forget to have a nice conversations with the jolly staff, just like Mr. George!