AJS “Wendy’s” Happy Hour with Ernest M. Higa, President, Higa Industry

AJS Happy Hour with Special Guest Mr. Ernest Higa, the man who brought Wendy’s back to Japan On June 23rd, members of the America-Japan Society gathered at the AJS office in Akasaka to hear from Mr. Ernest Higa, President of Higa Industries, and network over drinks and dinner. Mr. Ernest Higa, a Hawaiian native, has led a number of successful businesses since coming to Japan, focusing on the localization of American businesses to the Japanese market. Starting in the lumber and medical devices industry, Higa would eventually found the first branch of Domino’s pizza in Ebisu in September of 1984 and started Domino’s Pizza 1985 and developed not only throughout Tokyo but nationwide from Hokkaido to Kyushu being adapted to the Japanese market, offering such toppings as seafood and mayonnaise. Having stepped back after selling Domino’s, Higa is now coming back for more, leading the reintroduction of Wendy’s in Japan after their departure in 2009. From 2011 he has been at the helm of Wendy’s comeback, and has now partnered with Suntory’s First Kitchen to open a restaurant in Roppongi. While the burger market has typically been dominated by larger fast food chains, Higa is confident his “Fast Casual” approach will provide more of what customers want—fast service, casual dining, and a higher-quality, gourmet burger. According to Higa, the Japanese market has a number of challenges, but there are three primary characteristics that rise above all others: the importance of (1) customer satisfaction, (2) customer service, and (3) continuous new product development. By “Thinking Global, and Acting Local,” Higa hopes to bring success to Wendy’s in Japan by pleasing Japanese customers. All members greatly enjoyed Higa’s talk, following which everyone was treated to Wendy’s delicious hamburgers, fries, and chili. Based on everyone’s feedback, it seems that Higa will make Wendy’s a great success.