|LIFE IN JAPAN
President of Outback Steakhouse Japan
Time in Japan:
Four times, total of about 16 years years
Where are you from?
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
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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