And I don’t mean in a carry-on bag through the airport, either.
Higa is a well-known name in franchisee circles, as the man who brought Domino’s Pizza to Japan, back 20-something years ago. He was pretty remarkable, because out of the big name pizza delivery businesses–including Pizza La or Pizza Ra–Higa was first. It is said that the Pizza La man, in fact, got all the ideas for the company off of Ernie Higa, without paying anything or even giving acknowledgement of Ernie’s innovations.
You can Google this all, but Higa was also someone to innovate the lumber import business to Japan. Years ago, American lumber companies would want to sell to the Japan market, but there was a little problem–and it didn’t have anything to do with “are you Japanese? or “do you speak the language?” It just had to do with the size of the wood. The measurements were wrong, and so the lumber sellers couldn’t get sales. Higa recommended that they cut lumber for the Japanese market, and sales took off.
It’s said that when President Clinton came to town around 1993, he ordered pizza from Dominos and Ernie Higa delivered it personally. They became friends.
Higa’s Dad was Yetsuo “Yets” Higa, who came from Okinawa but grew up on Hawaii, and had a trucking business. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, “Yets” brought his trucks to the Navy commander for battle relief–as a donation. When the navy got around to sending a man with a check for the elder Higa, Higa refused to accept payment.
So, as you can see, this is some family.
When Wendy’s does come back to Japan, you can bet it’s going to be quite the menu compared to what is in America. I don’t eat a lot of fast food yet around Ephrata, but what I can say about Wendy’s in Japan was they were imitating to the letter the approach in America. It really tasted like American food, and not a “QSR” (quick service restaturant) menu with a Japanese approach and an American brand.
I am certain that, now, Wendy’s is going to be a success in Japan.
[Disclosure: I met Mr. Higa, once, in 2006, and had dinner with him and an executive of one of his subsidiaries.]