Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Starting a Buzz about Tokyo Bento

Toridoll, a Japanese restaurant company based in Kobe, has just opened its first Tokyo Bento restaurant in Gardena, California, via its U.S. subsidiary, Dream Dining. The menu features bento-style teriyaki dishes updated with contemporary touches like international dipping sauces (Peruvian Salsa, for one). The idea is to offer a quick, complete meal in one container (a takeout version of the traditional lacquered bento box). The bento concept also differentiates Tokyo Bento from competitors in the ethnic and casual dining markets.

Of course social media such as Facebook are key elements in Tokyo Bento's marketing, presumably for budget reasons and to enhance that sense of discovery when early adopters try something new and novel. Positive word of mouth is a very powerful marketing tool for a new venture, particularly in the restaurant business, because consumers generally put a lot of weight on recommendations by friends and colleagues. And social media can accelerate the buzz, with posts about Tokyo Bento's opening and the comments of consumers who've tasted its food.

Late in February, the company posted its first Facebook message and kept up a steady stream of photos, news, and coupons to build anticipation ahead of the official opening. Similarly, its Instagram feed showed photos of the restaurant in various stages of completion and then photos of customers enjoying their bento meals. The Twitter feed is still reminding followers of special promotions that take the financial risk out of trying a new restaurant.

Toridoll has ambitious plans for Tokyo Bento, projecting 100 additional U.S. locations within three years and 300 within five years, thanks to franchising. Meanwhile, the restaurant's U.S. website invites consumers to join the mailing list and be informed about new locations and promotions. Can Tokyo Bento successfully translate a differentiated restaurant experience and social media buzz into long-term California success?

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