Station noodle stands looking to broaden appeal beyond middle-aged men

by

Kyodo

Noodle stands in and around train stations, traditionally the haunts of busy middle-aged male workers, are offering a range of new dishes to appeal more to women and young people.

Hankyu Hanshin Restaurants Co. began to serve noodles with french fries at its stand at Hankyu Juso Station in the city of Osaka in February last year.

The ¥370 combo was noted on social networks and sold more than 3,000 meals in the month, about 10 times more than expected.

Women, young people and visitors from outside Osaka Prefecture are coming to eat the combo, a spokesperson for Hankyu Hanshin Restaurants said.

“We took a cue from (Western) fast-food to attract women and young people,” the official said.

The company now offers the new menu at three more of its stands.

The release of the combo is in line with changes taking place in the industry, such as new tables, seats and dishes for women, young people and health-conscious eaters.

Operators of noodle stands at stations run by Nankai Electric Railway Co., Hanshin Electric Railway Co. and Sanyo Electric Railway Co. joined forces for a promotional event early last year, in which they gave out gifts to people who got a stamp from their other stands in Osaka, Hyogo and Wakayama prefectures. The campaign received some 350 applications.

The campaign was aimed at drawing attention to spots of interest along the train lines as well as encouraging passengers to eat at noodle stands, said Takeshi Morikawa, a director at Nankai FD Service KK, which operates the Nankai Soba chain under Nankai Electric Railway.

He said the number of families and women visiting the noodle stands has increased as a result of the campaign. The three railway operators are considering a similar promotion again.

Nankai Soba has also conducted other sales promotion campaigns such as serving “Tower Soba” — noodles served with fried fish sticks rising like a tower out of the bowl — to commemorate the anniversary of the opening of Tsutenkaku Tower, a symbol of Osaka, in 1956.

The campaign began Oct. 28 last year, the date the tower opened, and ran for one month.

The Daitan Holdings group, which operates the Fuji Soba chain of 111 restaurants in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, has meanwhile made a pitch to health-conscious consumers, cutting the calories in the tempura it serves with noodles by 10 percent since 2014.

Daitan also began serving noodles with a Thai flavor, using sweet herbs and tom yang kung-like sauce, in August last year, in a bid to appeal to young people and women.