Getting their Mojo working in Japan
Mojo Coffee is making the move into Japan, opening a cafe and roastery in Tokyo within the next two months.
The Wellington company first set up in 2003 and now has about 24 cafes around New Zealand, including 16 in Wellington.
Founder Steve Gianoutsos said Mojo Japan planned to open at least one other cafe in Japan in the next year and eventually franchise Mojo there.
Gianoutsos is one of three major shareholders in the standalone company Mojo Japan, along with business partners Justine Ells and Kenji Shimamura.
Japan was well populated by big coffee chains – including US chains Starbucks and Tullys and Japan's Doutor Coffee – but underserved by specialist coffee brands such as Mojo, Gianoutsos said.
"Per capita the Japanese drink the same amount of coffee we do, if not a little more."
Japan had always "bought the best coffee you can get in the world", but had not reached the same standard of coffee roasting and serving as in New Zealand, Gianoutsos said.
Mojo's expansion into Japan, supported by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, was the first time it was taking its cafe concept outside New Zealand; it would pave a move into other Asian countries.
One of the biggest challenges would be getting the right balance between the traditionally formal Japanese culture and more laidback Kiwi approach. He planned to take Kiwi Mojo staff to Japan and bring some Japanese staff back to New Zealand to train.
"The Japanese service culture is second to none. It's bringing in a bit of that Kiwi casualness without losing the [Japanese] culture, which is all about respect."
Mojo Japan director Justine Ells said it had spent close to $300,000 on the venture since she and shareholder Arran Stewart approached Gianoutsos about setting up there.
Mojo Japan was already supplying five cafes and restaurants with coffee through a contract roaster, and would push into the wholesale market once its own roastery was up and running.
The company would tweak the New Zealand cafe menu.
"It'll be things like [smaller] portion sizes and adjusting recipes so they're not quite as sweet," Ells said.
The typical "salaryman" or office worker in Japan tended to get their coffee in a can from a vending machine.
Gianoutsos and Ells believed Mojo's customers were more likely to be women who frequented cafes, or caffeine lovers willing to pay a bit more for their coffee. Ells said the company signed up fellow director Kenji Shimamura in September, after spending the best part of a year looking for a local business partner.
"Business relationships take a lot longer to establish there."
Shimamura, who has been importing New Zealand honey to Japan for eight years, said the site for Mojo's office, roastery and first cafe was in the more Westernised and French-influenced Kagurazaka neighbourhood, where Mojo should be well received.
- © Fairfax NZ News