A decade ago, Hiroaki Suzuki was a mid-twenties automotive engineer working in his hometown of Utsunomiya when an evening at a local yakitori restaurant prompted him to abruptly change the course of his life.

As Suzuki ate, a diner sitting near him finished their meal and thanked the chef not with using the standard phrase gochisou-sama deshita (literally translated as “it was a feast”) but with the more direct arigato.

“There was so much heartfelt sincerity in that customer’s appreciation for the chef’s hard work in creating the delicious meal,” Suzuki recalls of that chance encounter. “In that moment, I realized that this type of direct interface was missing in my own career — and that it was something I wanted for myself.”