While food is, of course, of primary importance to cafe owners Kim and Teru Harase, recruiting and training the right people is equally crucial for the couple. With the aim of helping their team learn about Kiwi hospitality firsthand, they flew 10 staffers to New Zealand for a week in 2018.

“In New Zealand, people gravitate towards places with friendly staff who are cheerful and entertaining — we wanted to encourage our team to be a bit more like that and not to be afraid to express their individuality,” Teru says, noting that customer service in Japan is of a high standard but often impersonal.

“Visiting your favorite cafe is an integral part of many Kiwis’ daily ritual,” Kim adds. “There is lots of relaxed chatting and laughter between the staff and customers because they see each other regularly and have developed a friendly relationship. This is what we strive for at Iki.”