Don’t call it fast food.
New York-based Bareburger, which opens its first restaurant in Tokyo this weekend, says it aims to penetrate the competitive Japanese market by focusing on organic patties and healthy vegetables.
Bareburger — whose gourmet burgers will be priced at ¥1,500 and upward — launched in the United States in 2009 and now operates 26 outlets in the U.S. and Canada.
That success shows “organic food is spreading to the masses,” said Yasuhiro Ishida, an executive officer at Tomorrowland Co. The Tokyo-based apparel store operator will run Bareburger in Japan, where it already has some cafe experience.
The first Bareburger outlet will open to customers in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka district on Sunday.
Bareburger CEO Euripides Pelekanos on Wednesday expressed joy that the company is entering the Japanese market.
“Six years ago, I was flipping hamburgers in the kitchen,” he said. “Never imagined that we would obviously be in Tokyo and soon to be in Frankfurt, Germany, and soon to be in other countries in the world.”
Bareburger is not the only burger chain with an eye on the Japanese market. Carl’s Jr. and Shake Shack have also declared plans to open here.
Pelekanos said Bareburger’s strength in the U.S. is its focus on organic ingredients, as it is one of the few restaurant chains to use certified organic food.
Certification is awarded by third parties that check food sources against strict production standards. This compares with restaurants that merely describe their ingredients as “natural,” with no guarantee of that beyond the word of the farmers.
But it is hard to procure a full range of organic vegetables in Japan, where production standards are vague. The Japanese Bareburger will use imported organic patties from Australia and vegetables that are grown in Japan and are nearly pesticide-free, Tomorrowland said.
While many items on the menu hark clearly to New York style, there are some localized recipes, such as a Tsukune Burger made of minced chicken. The store will also offer a Tomorrow Burger, whose patty is made of renowned Ozaki Beef, priced at around ¥3,000.
The restaurant will also serve salads, organic beer and wine.
Tomorrowland said it plans to open another Bareburger outlet in Tokyo’s ritzy Ginza district next spring.