Wendy’s/Arby’s International Inc., a subsidiary of Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc., and Higa Industries Co. Ltd., a successful food importer and distributor based in Tokyo, announced the signing of a joint venture agreement to develop and operate Wendy’s restaurants in Japan.

The first Wendy’s restaurant is expected to open in Tokyo later this year with plans to rapidly expand the brand throughout the country in the coming years.

Higa Industries is led by Ernest Higa, who successfully owned and operated 180 Domino’s Pizza stores in Japan before selling the business in February 2010. A pioneer of the Japanese home delivery market, Higa’s stores became known for gourmet pizza products and the use of the Internet and wireless technology to promote menu items and enhance the customer ordering experience.  

“We are pleased to join with Ernie Higa and Higa Industries to build the Wendy’s brand in Japan,” says Wendy’s/Arby’s Group president and CEO Roland Smith. “Ernie is well respected in the Japanese restaurant industry, having steadily grown his business over the years while earning a reputation for menu innovation and outstanding customer service. Japan is the second-largest quick-service restaurant market in the world and represents a significant growth opportunity for the Wendy’s brand. We’re also honored by the tremendous outpouring of support we’ve received over the past year from our customers in Japan urging us to return.”

“As an entrepreneur who’s had past success with a Western [quick-serve] brand in Japan, I’m excited for the opportunity we have with Wendy’s and the potential to further adapt its quality product line for the Japanese consumer,” Higa says.

“We plan to reintroduce signature Wendy’s products, such as made-to-order hamburgers with square beef patties, chili, and popular Frosty desserts. At the same time, we’ll further differentiate our restaurants from other local restaurants by adding exciting new products like premium sandwiches and hamburgers with gourmet toppings, all served in a contemporary atmosphere that should exceed the expectations of Japanese consumers.”

This is the first joint venture for Wendy’s/Arby’s International, which demonstrates the commitment by the company to re-enter this important quick-service restaurant market. In December 2009, Wendy’s did not renew its franchise agreement with its former franchisee for Japan, resulting in the closing of 71 restaurants.

Wendy’s/Arby’s International is considering equity investments in other key markets that have the potential for substantial restaurant development, such as China and Brazil.

Burgers, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Wendy's