A Japanese butcher in the Kobe region, famous for its famous beef, offers meat croquettes particularly sought after by amateurs. To the point that to taste one of them, you will have to wait… 30 years.
Order now and be served in 30 years. This is the puzzling proposition of the Asahiya butcher shop, located in the city of Takasago in Japan. The brand serves a variety of meats, including Kobe beef, an internationally renowned product that is the pride of this region of the southwestern Japanese archipelago.
Founded in 1926, the butcher’s shop passed down from father to son adds breaded croquettes to its menu, mixing this exceptional beef with potatoes at the end of the Second World War. Available in four seemingly innocuous recipes, they became very popular at the turn of the 2000s with the explosion of the Internet. Hence an unparalleled waiting time that continues today to fuel the reputation of the place, reports CNN.
Rush on the “extreme kibble”
The star product of the store: the “extreme croquette”, the one for which today you have to wait three decades after an order to be able to taste them. For customers in a little more of a hurry, Asahiya offers “premium quality” croquettes, for which the waiting time, which is much shorter, still amounts to four years.
It was in 1999 that the butcher shop created the possibility of ordering on the Internet, a few years after the arrival of Shigeru Nitta, the current boss at the head of the business since 1994. Thinking at first that his customers would not be ready to spending substantial sums online, even for quality products, the butcher makes “extreme croquettes” his loss leader and decides to sell it at a loss.
“We were selling the extreme croquettes at a price of 270 yen [environ 1,80€] per piece… The beef in these croquettes alone cost about 400 yen [2,80€ environ] per piece”, explains the boss.
A way, according to him, to extol the spirit of his trade: very affordable prices for products of exceptional quality: cows – and not oxen – of grade A5 (the highest possible) and potatoes from a neighboring farm. All prepared the same day and without preservatives.
Slow production to avoid bankruptcy
In order not to lose too much money from the start, Shigeru Nitta decides to produce only 200 kibbles per week. A recipe that worked quite well until the media in the region started to talk about it and made small butchery a real phenomenon in the early 2000s.
“We stopped selling them in 2016 because the waiting time exceeded 14 years. We thought we would stop orders, but we received many calls asking to continue offering them,” says the butcher.
The “extreme croquettes” are therefore making a comeback in 2017 with a massive increase in production, which goes from 200 per week to 200 per day. The price is also increasing.
“At the time, we raised the price to around 500-540 yen ($3.40-3.70) with the consumption tax. But since the export of Kobe beef started, beef prices have doubled, so the fact that we are in deficit on the production of kibble has not changed”, explains Shigeru Nitta.
To the point that today, the boss finds himself in a paradoxical situation: since he does not wish to increase the price of “extreme croquettes”, he makes sure that the number of croquettes produced daily does not increase, so that the shortfall can be offset by the rest of the store’s sales, which is working for now.
“I’m sorry to make customers wait… I want to make croquettes quickly and send them as quickly as possible, but if I do, the store will go bankrupt”, laughs the trader.
Today we serve customers from 2012
Despite a notoriety that can sometimes be complicated to manage, especially when you have to ensure that customers are delivered years after their order (customers today ordered about ten years ago), the boss says he is above all grateful.
“By becoming famous, I think I can help the whole industry, not just my store, by getting people who weren’t interested in Kobe beef to become interested in it. I want as many people as possible people eat Kobe beef, and not just in my store,” he said.
Today, the 58-year-old butcher is thinking of expanding his business, while he already has another store in the city of Kobe. He also wants to continue selling his croquettes, available only in Japan and sold frozen in trays of five for €18.50 each.
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