Joel Silverstein

Joel Silverstein

Maki Nibayashi

President of Outback Steakhouse Japan

Time in Japan:

Four times, total of about 16 years years

Where are you from?

New York

What brought you here?
I had a Japanese-American roommate at the University of Southern California, and I read a book called "The Emerging Japanese Super State." That book really opened my eyes about Japan because until then, the only thing I knew about it was that they made bad baseball gloves. So for fun, I started studying Japanese and spent two years in the International Division at Waseda University' Linguistic Institute. That was my first time, back in 1971, when there were only three McDonalds in Japan. Then, I came over again with Black & Decker, moved away, changed jobs, moved back to Japan again with a different company, then changed jobs again, stayed in Japan with Pepsicola Japan, got involved with KFC Japan. . .

So from there, how did you get involved with Outback?
I knew the founders, and they were developing a big headache while trying to open up a restaurant here. They never found a partner that was suitable because Outback is all about sharing, employees having fun, having a lot of people make a lot of money. Outback is for happy people who walk away as millionaires. It was hard to find a Japanese partner that understood this concept, so they asked me to do it. I believed that casual dining would be big in Japan so, although it was a great change for me, I took it. I decided to commit and also approached the WDI Group, who have been one of the pioneers of food service here in Japan. We opened our first Outback Steakhouse in Minami Machida at Grandberry Mall and our second shop in Shinagawa.

What are your goals for Outback in Japan?
One by one. That's our philosophy. One customer at a time, one meal at a time, one restaurant at a time. We want to make sure we don't make any mistakes.

What was the weirdest thing you've ever seen or experienced in Japan?
The first weird things I saw when I first came to Japan were adults pissing on telephone poles and mothers holding their babies over the subway tracks so they can pee. Others were guys reading pornographic comics on the trains next to office ladies. I can't believe they don't complain. But the weirdest thing happened while I was eating sushi at the airport. A guy sat down next to me wearing a dress, tattoos from his ankles up to his wrists, orange hair, and an orange shirt. He was eating sushi, too, and talking to granny. That was weird.

What is your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Go with the punches and feel comfortable with yourself.

Joel Silverstein spoke to Maki Nibayashi

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Issues 250-299

Issues 150-199