Food Culture in Malaysia and Japan

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GENERAL INTRODUCTION

The growing, rearing and processing of foodstuffs seems to have held a special fascination since the nineteenth century. Food and beverage industry has really growth and moving positively if compare to the preceding years, which is from the number of restaurant that opens day by day. There is a vast variety of restaurants with the different types of cuisine in Malaysia that representing different country and culture by offers an exciting array of food outlets, from fast food to fine dining and everything in between. Local food alone offers Malay, Cantonese, Szechuan, Indian and Nyonya cuisine while international food covers the gamut from Japanese to Middle-Eastern, Italian and American. Today, more people are excited to experiment and explore each restaurant that just opened. Moreover, due to the lifestyle and trends, more people are eating out rather than cook at home. For instance: Recently, more and more Japanese restaurants have been opened around Malaysia. Every restaurant tries to bring up a new concept and originality to their brand.

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As the time goes by, people are more selective nowadays. They would like to choose a good quality food, with a good portion, with a good branding, and willing to pay with a reasonable price. There are some students are willing to pay high price for one meal because they want to try a new restaurant or a new cuisine with a good quality of the food. Thus, all restaurants have to try their best to meet the customers' expectations. Besides that, they also have to recognize every aspect of their business has an impact on customer service because involve face to face customer contact and the supply in food has growing day by day. Each restaurant has to boost them self to improving customer service that involves making a commitment to learning what our customers' needs and wants are, and developing action plans that implement customer friendly processes.

The writer finds this issue interesting because nowadays people often ask the simple question like "Where are we going to eat? I love Japanese foods especially sushi. Where can I get a delicious sushi with ideal price, good service and good place to hang out?" When people decide to choose a Japanese restaurant, there are some factors that influence their decision making, such as customer's emotion, satisfaction and brand loyalty. It is very important to know customer's behavior in order to build a long term relationship. Therefore, the writer has chosen the title "An assessment of Sushi Zanmai Malaysia popularity among university college students."

There are three different concepts of Japanese restaurant that owe by SuperSushi Sdn Bhd Company which are:

  • 1st Concept: Sushi Zanmai that began since in April, 1997, the genuine conveyer-sushi restaurant. There are several outlets of Sushi Zanmai which are in Sunway Pyramid, The Gardens, One Utama and Low-Yat.
  • 2nd Concept: Sushi Zen that began since in September, 2007, a casual kiosk-style Japanese restaurant.
  • 3rd Concept: Pasta Zanmai that began since in December, 2007, a Japanese Casual Pasta Restaurant.

Within this short period, this company has developed the restaurant very fast, from one concept into another concept.

The purpose of this research is:

  • To identify factors that influence people selecting Sushi Zanmai as a sushi restaurant
  • To identify current trends of Japanese food
  • To recommend measures that could help to improve current condition

PART 1: LITERATURE AND REVIEW

1.1 Food Culture in Malaysia

Malaysia has a combined population of over 18 million people. Because of its central location, between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Malaysia has traditionally been a meeting point for traders and travelers from both the East and West, it also has produced a most diverse culinary melting pot. As a result, Malaysia has a multicultural and multiracial population consisting of three main group which are Malays, Chinese, Indians and numerous indigenous peoples. With such a varying ethnic composition, it is no surprise that a great diversity of religions is prevalent throughout Malaysia.

In Malaysia, eating out is really a gastronomic adventure. A blend ofcultural and ethnic histories which make up Malaysia's diverse population is reflected in the broad range of influences and flavours found in Malaysian cuisine. And each state in Malaysia has something to offer in terms of culinary delights. For instance: Penang, the famous in hawker stall haven, where all the most delicious food requires that only costs as little as RM 3.50 per dish, such as Penang Char Kway Teow, Fried Oyster, Laksa, etc. Mallaca is also home to Baba Nyonya food, which served in quaint cafes in historical shop houses. Or in Kuala Lumpur, the most diverse offering of foods from all over the world, such as Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, Thailand cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine, European cuisine, Arabian cuisine, etc.

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With mixed origins, there are certain ingredients common to many dishes in Malaysia. Multiple varieties of rice and noodles, which are from local or imported from Thailand, Japan or India, are often used as a base. The Malays include a lot of seafood in their diet, like fish, squids, prawns and crabs that used to show up in Malay dishes. And most of Malaysian dishes use fish sauce or fish paste because fish live is around the shores of Malaysia's islands. Fresh herbs and roots are commonly used to cook Malays food.  Indian and Thai curry spices with regional varieties are often used to create rich and spicy curry dishes. A dried spice is also form an important component of Malays cooking. Moreover, in a city of Malaysia which is Malacca was one of the great trading centers of the spice in the fifteen century. And Coconut is another favorite ingredient which is also common found in countless dishes. For instance: Santan(the coconut milk), to make creamy curries. It is to add savory sweetness of the dishes and to cool the fire of hotter spices.

Today, rice is the staple for almost half the world's population, particularly in parts of China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Southeast Asia.

According to historians, they believe that is was first domesticated in the area covering the foothills of Eastern Himalayas (Northeastern India), and stretching through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Southern China. From here, it spread in all directions and human cultivation created numerous varieties of rice.

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in Philippines, there are 120.000 varieties of rice worldwide. Over the centuries, there are three main types of rice developed in Asia, depends on the content of the grain which is:

"Amylase means an enzyme that breaks starch down into sugar"

Rice has divided into three (3) which are long grain, medium grain and short grained varieties. In this case, different populations, consumer different varieties of rice.

Foods through the day in Malaysia are three meals a day and rice is almost always included, even at breakfast. For instance, Nasi Lemak. A typical meal consists of rice served with soup, curries, and a few vegetable stir-fries and also eaten fruit for dessert. A typical of Malay lunch and dinner was all dishes are placed in the center of the table to be shared by all the diners and usually the Malay food is often eaten with the hands.

There are similar eating pattern within Japanese and Malaysia, which the main staple is rice and it is eaten with almost every meal. The meal features is quite same, such as the tastes of sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and salty. Like Chinese style wheat noodles served in meat stock known as Ramen have become extremely popular over the last century and Malaysian like to consume noodles. Follow by seafood, as Japan is surrounded by sea as same as Malaysia's islands. Therefore, When Japanese cuisine comes to Malaysia, the food itself easily accepted by Malaysian.

1.2 Background of Japanese Food Culture

The rice-centered food culture of Japan evolution follows the introduction of wet rice cultivation from Asia more than 2000 years ago. The cultivation and consumption of rice has always played a central role in Japanese food culture. The tradition of Japanese is usually rice served with seasonal vegetables; fish and other marine products reached a highly sophisticated form in the Edo period (1600-1868) and remains the vibrant core of native Japanese cuisine. In the century and a half since Japan reopened to the West, Japan has developed an incredibly rich and varied food culture which includes not only native Japanese cuisine but also many foreign dishes. Some adapted to Japanese tastes and some imported more or less unchanged.

In the 6th century, introduction of Buddhism to Japan became the official religion of the country and the eating of meat and fish were prohibited. The first recorded decision prohibiting the eating of cattle, horses, dogs, monkeys and chicken was issued by Emperor Temmu in A.D.675. Laws and emperor eliminate the eating of almost all flesh of animals and fowl because based on Buddhism are prohibiting to killing.

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In the 15th century, many of the foods and food ingredients eaten by Japanese nowadays, for instance: miso, tofu or soy sauce.

In the 16th century, the combination of Spanish and Portuguese frying technique with Chinese method for cooking vegetables in oil led to the development of tempura, the popular Japanese dish in which seafood and many types of vegetables with deep fried method.

In the early 19th century, the development in Edo, the introduction of sushi has started. Today's, most of people are familiar with that dishes. It made from vinegar rice top or combined with raw fish and shellfish. And during that time, sushi was sold from stalls as a snack food, and that stalls were become the starter of today's sushi restaurants.

In the mid 19th century, many of new cooking and eating customs were introduced where the most important being eating the meat. Consider of Japanese dish, Sukiyaki that consist of beef, vegetables, tofu and other ingredients cook at the table in a soup stock of soy sauce, sweet sake and sugar was first served in Western style restaurants. Another dish that popular during this period is Tonkatsu, means a deep fried bread pork cutlets.

In the early 20th century, using Indian curry powder, Japanese curry rice (kareraisu) became very popular dish which consisted vegetables, meat or seafood with a thick curry sauce and served with rice.

In generally at sushi restaurants, costumers will sit at the counter and call out their order item to a sushi chef. Or sit at Conyever belt where the customers can grab small plates in front of you, or call a special order if you do not see what you want on the belt. Or customers can sit on tatami mats. And as like Chinese, Japanese also ate with chopsticks to transfer the food. The rice bowl is not held as closely to the mouth. Soups are consumed directly from the bowl and the only dish eaten with a spoon is an unsweetened egg custard which known as chawanmushi.

There are several ways to describes the differ of Japan cuisine from other cuisine, First, portion of the dish are small because it is to capture the diners attention with the freshness, natural flavor, the beauty of each dish, the atmosphere and the whole meal. Second, the food for a meal is served at once, so diners receive their own portions on individual plates and bowls instead of serving family style from large bowls in the middle of table. Third, Japanese use less oil which to emphasize the light and natural flavor of the food.

And now, development of Japanese restaurant that opened more and more in Malaysia. It can be cause of the trends between among the Malaysia. There is similarity between Malaysia cuisine and Japanese cuisine that makes Malaysia is easier to accept. Other reason is Malaysian are quite open minded with those culture.

1.3 Food affecting consumers towards selection of food

There are numerous factors that affect consumers towards selection of food, whether it is made by individuals or other parties. Food choices are influenced by many interacting factors which are income, culture, the concern about health, values, religion or even genetic.

Many operational models have been developed to describe these influences that including The Lifestyle Model of dietary habits (Pelto, 1981), which attempts to explain how these factors interact to result in specific food behaviors.

Societal Factors:

  • Food Production and Distribution System is responsible for the availability of foods which differs from region to region and country to country. Food availability influences and in turn is influenced by the socio-economic and political systems. These serve to control the production and distribution of food in culture.
  • Government policy may also be involved with the purchasing power of consumers through programs such as the oversight of food quality through safety standards, nutrition labeling requirements and other production programs (Josling&Ritson, 1986)

Lifestyle Factors:

Income (limits what foods can be purchased) ® Occupation (influences food habits in several ways, for instance: the location of the job also influence meal patterns) ® Education (the status and self-realization phase of food use are usually, through not always dependent on higher levels of education) ® Nutrition Knowledge (may or may not translate into knowledge based behavior, and greater influence over what someone eats than what the person knows about nutrition) ® Ethnic identity (a distant heritage that has been modified or lost over the generations through acculturation) ® Rural-Urban (place of residence may affect which foods people eat) ® Religious Beliefs (depends on what religion, may have a great impact on food habits or may have no influence at all) ® Health (specific foods are often credited with health promoting qualities, such as ginseng in Asia) ® Physiological (age,gender,body image, and state of health)All of influence lifestyle factors are affects food habits.

1.4 Factors affecting popularity of Japanese food towards university college student

The marketing mix is the set of marketing tools which often summarized as the four Ps that the firm uses to achieve its objectives in target markets (McCarthy, 2001). And most marketing professionals would say that the right marketing mix is the one that maximizes customers' satisfaction and results in the highest sales or market share.

Product

It is defined as anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use or consumption that might satisfy a need or a want.

Step one; this product emerges will come from an analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunity and threats.

There are two classification of product:

  • Tangible product ® Goods
  • Intangible product ® Services

For a restaurant, the goods are food and beverage outlets offered and the service is the customer service. Consequently, it is logically to include services within the definition of the product. (David Jobber)

Step two; is a detailed analysis of the target market to assess the nature of the opportunity, what is its size and potential? How strong is the competition and how is it likely to evolve in the future?

Step three; is research into the needs of prospective customers, what is it that customers actually want?

According to Hamel and Prahalad, 1991, today, this goes beyond merely asking customers, what are the customer looking for, but creatively seeking to discover needs that customers cannot articulate because the customers are unaware of the possibilities offered by new technologies and the changing environment.

People will always seek a restaurant that offering excellent food, especially when the restaurant have a good service, value and ambiance. People satisfy their needs and wants with products. Thus, the product is the main thing for a company because without products there is nothing to market or sell. And when a customer decides to buy a product, the customer will look for certain characteristics. The customer will want to know how many different products that offered by restaurant, which one provides a more interesting savings and what is included in the product. Product must have the power to leave a good impression and interest so the customer will not hesitate to visit the restaurant for the second time.

Price

It is defined as what the product or service costs to the customer or the amount that customers are willing to pay for a product and service. In order hand, price is the only element in the marketing mix that produces revenue. And setting a price for a product is very important.

"Price has a very strong impact on sales volume and market share; empirical studies (reviewed in Tellis, 1988; and Sethuraman and Tellis, 1991) have shown that, for most products, price elasticity is substantially higher than advertising elasticity."

The company will need to set a price that the customer can afford and willing to pay and at the same it will help the company to achieve a good level of profits. When a customer asks about the price of a product, the customer also interested in knowing is there any discounts or special promotions.

Therefore, no matter how good the product, how creative the promotion or how efficient the place or distribution, unless price covers costs the company will make a loss. (David Jobber, 2004)

For instance, if the price is expensive, regular students will not be able to afford it and will think to have their meals in other restaurant. Nowadays, customers are concern about the price of their food and tend to compare the price to another restaurant. The customer will evaluate whether the value of the product is worth the amount that the customer are paying, because customers are always strongly influenced by price.

"Price often fulfills two functions simultaneously: it reflects the sacrifice that the buyer must make in order to acquire the product or service involved and it also acts as a signal of the quality of the product (Monroe, 1990)"

Another consideration is where pricing have the relationship between price and perceived quality, because many people use price as an indicator of quality.

According to David Jobber, the more value a product gives compared to that of the competition, the higher the price that can be charged. Price should accurately key to the value to the customer. The sacrifices that made by the customer is in order to experience the benefits of a product, thus from the restaurant itself have to give the best for the customer.

Place

It is defined as place or distribution as a set of interdependent organizations involved in the process of making a product available for use or consumption by customers. Or the company activities that make the product available to target customers.

The dimensions of place are channels, assortment, location, inventory and transport. (Borden, 1984) For instance: Location, where customer can obtain the product so distribution channels are the key to this area. And in fact, many restaurant companies believe that location has become the most important factor to success.

Warnaby and Dominic, 2004 highlight the advantages of shopping in town centers. Thus, the company will need to find ways to bring the products to customers and make the product easy to access to the customers. For instance: Convenience that is also important issue in food outlet patronage which the time and speed service is required, in order to satisfied the customers need and want.

Place or distribution considerations play a major role in influencing customer motives. In the marketing of consumer goods, the role is to ensure that the product is available to the consumer when and where it is needed and in sufficient variety and quantity.

Promotion

It is defined as the activities that communicate the merits of the products and persuade target customers to buy or use the products. Company need to plan promotional activities properly in order to create awareness of potential customers. It is where advertising and communications are used to encourage customers' uptake of the product or service.

Promotion has several types of tools which are: Advertising, Sales promotion (discounts, coupons), Publicity, Word of Mouth, Personal Selling, Merchandising, Sponsorship and etc.

The main reason why promotion is so important is to communicate with individuals, groups or organizations. Through promotion, the message like information about products or services can be communicated to existing and potential customers.

Promotions can strengthen brand positioning. A 1985 study by Frankel and Co. and Perception Research Services found that, following exposure to adverts featuring promotions for a brand, consumers opinion of the brand( issues like quality, value and caring about customers ) improved by over 8 percentage compared to those exposed to only brand sell adverts.

In other words, it must have the right facilities and services (product) and make them easily accessible to guests (place) with the proper amount of promotion and the right price. (David Abbey, 2003)

Japanese food-Korean food

(http://web.li.gatech.edu/~rdrury/500/writing/f2_07/benihana/compasean.htm)

Japanese and Korean foods are popular and are made of similar ingredients. However, the foods have their own taste, recipe and way of eating. Even though Korean food and Japanese food seems to be similar, both of them have their specialties.

Japanese food and Korean food seems to be similar because they use same ingredient. For example, both of them use onions, green onions, red peppers, raw fish, and rice. Koreans and Japanese enjoy eating raw sliced fish, which are sushi and sashimi. Sushis ingredients are boiled rice, and raw sliced fish and sashimis ingredient is just as raw sliced fish. In addition, Korean and Japanese rice is the same.

However, Korean and Japanese food is not totally same. Koreans tend to make food spicier and saltier than Japanese food. The price of Japanese food is higher than that Korean food. When people eat a meal at a Japanese restaurant, they should pay lots of money for their meal. For example, the basic foods like rice, sashimi, and some sea food cost thirty-five dollars per person. However, Korean basic foods, rice, main stew, and lots of side dishes cost just ten dollars per person. Japanese fresh seafood has high valuable, so most people prefer going to a Japanese restaurant like Benihana. Nevertheless, it is expensive.

Every person has his/her own appetite, someone want to eat Japanese food and the other want to eat Korean food. Both foods may seem to be similar, because they are made of almost same ingredients. However, each of them has their own recipe, taste, and style of eating. Even though Japanese food is expensive, people like to eat Japanese food.

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