New 'nokisaki' restaurants find path to affordable business startups

The word nokisaki is defined in the dictionary as "edge of the eaves" or "house frontage." But new usage has surfaced to describe the renting of a commercial space for a temporary period, for the purpose of operating a restaurant of other food and beverage business.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs, it seems, don't have the capital at hand to meet the various costs for building deposit, rent and various equipment that are needed to operate a restaurant. So, reports Nikkan Gendai (Jan 31), their solution is to find a place they can rent for the short term. Yoshinoya Holdings, parent company of the gyudon (beef bowl) snack chain, has tied up with Nokisaki KK to put customers in touch with unused space.
"We launched in May of last year, and at present we've already tied up with 160 operators," says a person in the new business development section of the company. "After obtaining the understanding of the building owners, the businesses contract for space in increments of 30 days. We've been working with all kinds of people, ranging from show business performers to salaried workers, students, and even housewives. The rents on the buildings vary depending on location and size of the property."
Seiichio Inamine, member of the comedy team Kuchibiru Ketchup, was one such individual. Last September he opened a specialty restaurant for tantan-men, Chinese-style noodles with a spicy sesame broth. Named Menya Haguregumo, the restaurant is located on the second floor of a building in the Nishi-Gotanda area of Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward.
The owner operates a bar on the same premises at night.
"Right from the get-go it would have been financially prohibitive to open my own shop," says Inamine. "This way can reduce the risks by renting. I was looking for a place and found this bar close to where I live. I operate it only while the bar's closed. Along with a contract for noodle recipes, I purchased some specialty cooking equipment, with the whole outlay coming to 1.2 million yen. Along with utilities, monthly rent costs me 114,000 yen. If I sell 30 bowls of noodles at lunchtime, I shut down for the day."
Inamine's restaurant's hour of operation are five days a week, from 11:40 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. He's closed on weekends and holidays. His offerings consist of three different noodle dishes. In the five months since he opened for business, sales have climbed steadily.
"The number of trained chefs has increased, to the point where the human resources market is in excess," says business analyst Takayuki Suzuki, in explanation of one factor pushing the short-term rental business.
"Right now there are aspiring chefs of all types of cuisine -- Italian, French, Chinese and so on -- who lack a regular place to work," Suzuki notes.
"In the past, there were owners who hoped to operate their restaurants round the clock; but whether daytime or evening, business can be demanding. So by putting unused space to use they can still boost revenues. This method finds a way to match the needs of both parties. I'm pretty confident ventures like these will be increasing in the future," he adds.
In addition to restaurants inside buildings, the new nokisaki restaurants can be expected to make inroads on rooftops as well, in the form of beer restaurants and barbecues. And still others are temporarily renting space in parking lots in business districts, where they operate mobile food services from trucks. This new business model, Nikkan Gendai reports, has become increasingly conspicuous of late.

© Japan Today
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