Ken Shida President of Shidax ambassador of health

Ambassador of Health

X-Treme is a keyword in the U.S. these days whether you are talking about sports, entertainment or even food.  Add the X from X-Treme to Ken Shida’s family name and you get Shidax, Japan’s leading food service and karaoke business started by his father some forty-five years ago.  Shidax has come a long way since then with its new headquarters located in Tokyo’s trend-setting city of Shibuya at Shibuya Shidax Village. 

When one hears the name Shidax, many associate the name with karaoke. Although Shidax is #1 in Japan when it comes to karaoke with 300 shops throughout Japan – which is more than double the number of shops of their #2 competitor Big Echo, karaoke is only 40% of their business and Shidax is primarily in the food service industry with more than 3,000 locations throughout Japan. 60% of their business comes from serving food in hospitals, kindergartens, primary, junior high and high schools, colleges, universities, companies, restaurants and nursing homes.

In fact, Shidax is fifth in Japan’s food service industry behind McDonald’s, Skylark, Hoka Hoka Tai, and Yoshinoya.   However, what separates Shidax from a hamburger shop, family restaurant, bento (take-out lunch box) and beef bowls?  According to Ken Shida, President of Shidax, health is their main priority and their slogan says it all – “Mother Food”.  According to Shida, “When a mother chooses food for her children, she chooses food differently than the way most husbands would. She is more concerned about health.  People often say you have to eat at home if you want to eat healthy, but as you know, this is almost impossible to do every day due to our lifestyles and we often have to eat out at restaurants so that we can enjoy life. 
Therefore, our concept is to take the same care in preparing food that your mother would.” 

From providing food to people ranging from infants to the elderly, Shidax takes great responsibility because for many, his food is the first nutrition that a child gets when he/she is born in a hospital, and the last meal that an elderly person may eat in a nursing home. “In 10 or 20 years from now which will be 60 years from when Shidax started, there may be customers who ate Shidax food from the beginning to the end”. 

According to Shida, it is important to have a good balance of food, exercise, rest and relaxation, and mental health.  Whether it comes to serving healthy food or releasing stress through singing in a Shidax karaoke room, Ken Shida is the Ambassador of Health. Senior Editor Dr. Anthony Al-Jamie visited Shibuya Shidax Village to meet with this bilingual socially responsible business leader.

AA: You have a beautiful location here. Why did you choose Shibuya?
KS: To be successful in business, you need to have a good brand name and image. Shidax needs both a healthy and innovative image. Every day Shidax is changing and I think Shibuya is one of the largest markets for both food and karaoke, and its speed of change is faster than any other city. Also, very different types of people gather in Shibuya. It is very interesting because different cultures are divided by different streets and these cultures change every 10 years. You can find people of all ages walking the streets of Shibuya depending on which street you are on. Therefore it makes for an excellent testing ground for our various restaurants, allowing us to analyze the needs of each generation.

AA:  So do you do a lot of market research?
KS:  Yes, we have invested in the IT industry because we want to have a direct connection with every customer.  We now have more than 14 million members and we keep individual data on how they use our karaoke rooms, as well as what kind of food they like.  We then arrange our menus according to this data. We have 6  restaurants in the area such as the one on the first floor of this building and each restaurant has a different theme focused on a different target market.  I personally go to each of these restaurants and try different things on the menus so that I can not only check on our own restaurants, but also personally observe our clientele and see what trends are happening.  We are a very meeting-oriented company.  Every other week I gather my supervisors and conduct the meetings myself, and every Friday night you can find me on the 1st floor gathering information from people in my restaurant.

AA: What type of people do you meet here?
KS: Many types – people from the IT industry, singers, venture capitalists, models….First we gather on the second floor for a lecture to learn something new, and then we drink and have a good time.  The rule is that you can bring your friends but they have to be people who want to learn something or gain something out of life, and not someone who wants to sell their product.  I don’t want to meet salespeople. 

AA: You place great importance on health.  Why do you serve food like karage (fried chicken)?
KS: We try to buy good ingredients and are concerned about oil. We are not going to deprive people of the pleasure of eating their favorite food.  We watch what people want to eat and if they want to eat food like fried chicken, we will serve it, but then we will arrange the plate so that it is accompanied by salad to provide balance.

AA: Is your management style different from that of your father?
KS: Yes.  I worked for Saga Corporation which was #1 in the world for catering.  I tried to bring their system to Japan, but nobody listened.  I wanted to create a chain system in the Japanese food catering industry, but I faced a lot of resistance trying to do an American style of business here.  Now people recognize the need for it and we have finally been able to do this in the last 2 or 3 years. 

AA: Has your MBA been helpful?
KS: Yes, it helped a lot.  I began my career by washing dishes and learning all aspects of the food service industry in both Japan and the U.S. I started my MBA when I was 35 years old, after I had been working for this company for 10 years.  In my MBA program I could meet many globally minded business people from different fields and we imagined about the future.  This experience inspired me to get into the IT industry, which has really helped our company with market research.   I was Vice-President when I entered the MBA program.  I knew I was going to be President and I wanted to create my own style.  I decided that a new age president needs to have three faces – the management expert, socially responsible leader and academic.   My MBA provided me with a lot of information and I learned that you have to have new and innovative ideas combined with management skills to make a successful company. The Internet provides us with a lot of information that anyone can access, but it is important to know how to use that information and that is why you need to have an academic side. In turn I am trying to educate my employees and have begun a series of Marketing classes which we hold downstairs on Saturdays.  Finally, I learned about social responsibility and that is why we are trying to serve social needs. 

AA: Why is solving society’s problems important?
KS: Because when I get to God’s door, God will judge me. 

AA: Are you Christian?
KS: Well, my great grandfather was a Buddhist monk and my mother is Christian.  I am in between.  

AA: Your father started the business.  Is he still active in Shidax?
KS: Not as much as he used to be.  He is very involved in new business creation and socially responsible activities. 

AA: Do you have a close relationship with him? 
KS: Yes, he comes to my office every other week and we meet for 2 or 3 hours. 

AA: You are lucky to have such a good mentorship!
KS: Yes, he is 70 years old.  Usually people in their 70s want to do other things, but I think his aim is broader than most.  He wants to climb to a higher place.  That is why he let me run this company.  He wants to climb to another field. 

AA: Do you ever get scared?
KS: Every night.  Every day.

AA: Do you get scared about your business?
KS: Yes.  I ask myself, “What is God thinking about me?  Will this business still exist in the future?  Will my concept and strategy be good for people in the future?”Ken Shida, the Ambassador of Health is a business leader trying to make a difference.  With more socially responsible entrepreneurs entering the world of business in Japan we can expect to live in a better world.

Tokyo Journal

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