Serving up a Japanese treat...

POSTED: 26th January 2017
IN: Business news

Forty years ago, Tak Tokumine arrived in the UK with a suitcase full of Japanese books and plans to cater for London’s Japanese expat community.

Now, he has built a company that has become one of the largest Japanese retailers in the country; operating an online store, food hall and successful restaurant business (seizing the opportunity to expand across London and looking to move into other UK cities following a successful new restaurant opening in Manchester).

At Aldermore, we aim to help those with ideas, big or small, seek and seize opportunities. That’s exactly why we were so excited to work with Tak and the Japan Centre to provide a £450,000 asset finance facility which has helped fund their ambitious growth plans.

With sights set on Europe and new delivery services on the cards, we caught up with Tak to find out more about the journey he’s been on as a bookshop owner, businessman and serial restaurateur.

  1. Tell us about Japan Centre.

For nearly 40 years,  Japan Centre has been offering the highest quality authentic Japanese food, drink and ingredients to consumers in the UK and Europe, in store and more recently online. It has become  one of London’s most well known retail destinations for all things Japanese.

In 2012, Japan Centre launched Shoryu Ramen which has been recommended in the Michelin Guide 2014, 2015 and 2016 offering authentic Hakata ramen. In 2016, Japan Centre also launched Ichiryu also in Central London, which offers fresh hand made udon daily on site and helped launch Sakagura, a Japanese washoku dining and sake experience in Mayfair.

  1. It’s a really interesting business. Where did the idea first come from?

It really started off small.  

When I first came to the UK in the 1970s there were very few places to buy Japanese goods, from this lack of provision the idea for Japan Centre was born. At first Japan Centre was just a small bookstore to cater for the Japanese expat community, in Warwick Street, London this then grew to include ingredients, delicatessen and later bakery to become the popular food hall it is today.

  1. You’ve already had a great deal of success, but what are your plans for the business over the next few years?

In the UK and Europe, we have seen a real increase in consumer interest and demand for not only Japanese ingredients and recipes but Japanese dining experiences. Within the next few years we hope to meet this growing demand by growing our business here in the UK and Europe. Already we are increasing our online offering with more new products,  expanded ranges as well as hosting our e-commerce site in French, Italian and Chinese. We have recently launched Japan Centre Fresh - a Japanese recipe box service and a new meat delivery service offering home chefs authentic Japanese sliced meats the opportunity to cook real Japanese cuisine at home.  

  1. How will the funding from Aldermore help you to meet these goals?

Aldermore has really been invaluable in helping meeting our business goals, providing funding for our business which has enabled us to buy the assets that we need to drive expansion. They have also taken the time to really understand us as a business and with their experience and knowledge of helping businesses grow have been a great source of key business advice and expertise.

  1. What advice would you give to other SMEs with similar ambitions to grow?

Learn from others; keep up to date with other similar businesses in your sector and market leaders to ensure that you are offering exceptional levels of customer service, high quality products, remain competitive and attractive to consumers.

It is also important to keep abreast with UK and global consumer trends as well as how consumers use technology to help them find, interact and purchase from businesses so that your business is always at the forefront of meeting consumer needs now and into the future.

To find out more about the authentic Japanese food and products, check out the Japan Centre website.



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