Recipe for expansion
To ride out the sluggish market, Hasegawa plans to use his home recipe to serve up profits in his overseas expansion.
"Opening a new restaurant [in Japan] will increase sales but not by much," said Hasegawa.
"Our goal is sustainability. We want to remain in the market for a long period of time and Japan alone is just too small."
Sales in Japan's restaurant industry shrank about 1.2 percent to Japanese yen 12.7 trillion (US$104 billion) in 2001 from the previous year, according to data from the Food Service Industry Survey and Research Center.
Sales have grown just Japanese yen 700 billion since 1992.
One issue Global Dining will face overseas is more critical diners than those in Japan, who tend to take what they get without complaint.
Hasegawa says his management structure, rather than the food, will make the difference as he exports Gonpachi and his two other brands, the Italian La Boheme and the Asia-oriented Monsoon Cafe, in the coming years.
Global Dining already runs one La Boheme and one Monsoon restaurant in Los Angeles.
"The only reason we have not been able to take the lead over our competitors [in Los Angeles] is that we have not yet been able to fully export our current management system," Hasegawa said.
Hasegawa, an avid jogger, says his employees are given the freedom to run with the business -- giving them a bigger personal stake in its success and giving him more employee bang for his yen.
Plans are afoot to open Gonpachi, the chicken kebab yakitori restaurant favored by Bush and Koizumi, in Los Angeles by the end of 2003.
Some industry watchers might think that New York would be the logical next step for Global Dining, but Hasegawa has other ideas. The next target, he says, may be Asia.
"Shanghai would be good," Hasegawa says. "I think it's more interesting than New York."