February 2006

National Restaurant Survey - Sake Sales Are Booming

Posted by admin in 2006, February, Newsletter

JETRO (The Japanese External Trade Organization) recently conducted a restaurant survey on alcoholic beverages highlighting the increased popularity of sake. The survey was conducted in August 2005 and the sample included 34 restaurants in LA, 3 in LV, 31 in NY/NJ, 19 in SF and 12 in Chicago. The findings were recently published in the January Issue of Japanese Food Trade News, and I will provide in bullet form some very interesting results. Truthfully some of the questions were asked in a weird way and there was indeed an emphasis on higher end restaurants featuring more premium sakes.

  • When asked what percentage of sales were made up by alcoholic beverages more than half (54%) of the respondents selected between 21-30%. The respondents who selected 31-40% (15%) and 41% and up (5%) were restaurants that best can be called Izakaya-type places frequented by Japanese customers. 
  • When asked how many customers out of ten order alcoholic beverages the average was 6.7! Thus almost 7 people out of 10 order booze! 
  • When asked what form of alcoholic beverage were ordered out of every ten customers the results went like this: 1-2 people ordered sake 27% of the time, beer 13%, shochu 33% and others 28%. 3-4 people ordered sake 57% of the time, beer 43%, shochu 51% and others 57%. 5-6 people ordered sake 15% of the time, beer 35%, shochu 11%, and others 14% 
  • When asked out of ten customers who order sake if they order hot versus cold the survey, which asked the question as if the table had 10 customers, found that everybody ordered hot sake 3.2% of the time as opposed to 7.4% in 2000 and 16.2% in 1997. (This reads sort of weird but bear with it), the next line said Hot 8- 9, Cold 1-2 meaning 8-2 or 9-1 hot versus cold 13.7% of the time as opposed to 61.7% in 2000 and a whopping 49.6% in 1997. Hot 6- 7, Cold 3-4 15.8% of the time versus 21.0% in 2000 and 17.7% in 1997. Hot, Cold 50-50% of the time was 20% of the time versus 2.5% in 2000 and 16.5% in 1997. Cold 6-7, Hot 3-4 was 25.3% of the time versus 4.9% in 2000 and not recorded in 1997. Cold 8-9, Hot 1-2 was 18.9% of the time versus 2.5% in 2000. And everybody ordered cold sake 3.2% of the time. (sorry that reads so wacky!) The bottom line is that 66% of the restaurants in 1997 and 69% in 2000 reported that more than 8 customers out of 10 ordered hot sake and that figure decreased sharply in 2005 to 16.9%. And likewise only 7.4% of the restaurants reported that in 2000 more than 6 out of 10 ordered cold sake versus 2005 where this figure increased to 47.4%. Those are massive swings! 
  • In terms of "House" sakes, which means locally made sake mostly used for heating the order went like this: #1 Sho Chiku Bai, #2 Ozeki, #3 Gekkeikan, #4 Yaegaki. (Typically restaurants make 90% gross profit on their house sake.) 
  • The survey asked restaurants to choose up to three sake brands which they sell most and are imported: #1 Otokoyama, #2 Kurosawa, #3 Kubota, #4 Wakatake Onikoroshi, #5 Gekkeikan Horrin, #6 Harushika, #7 Hakkaisan. 
  • The strange but good news is that there has been a perception that only Jizake or small local microbreweries were doing well here in the US, but that is not the entire story. The major breweries are also doing very well. High tides raise all ships. This is great news especially for Japan where these large-scale breweries have been taking a pounding. 

This is all pretty amazing news! More people drinking cold sake is obvious, but please remember hot sake is not wrong, rather drinking bad hot sake is wrong. And the fact that larger breweries are also shooting the lights out makes me incredibly proud as I have had many conversations with the heads of some of the largest breweries stating my goals and intentions of making sake so popular in the West that demand will increase back in Japan. We are half way there! Thank you sake drinkers for these incredible numbers!

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