The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Mom’s Touch seeks to replicate success in Japan

Opening first store in former McDonald’s building, CEO confident of luring picky Japanese customers with Korean-style burgers

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : April 29, 2024 - 15:28

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Renowned for its signature spicy thigh patty burgers, Mom’s Touch has established itself as a dominant player in South Korea’s fast-food landscape, with the highest number of branches here, despite its relatively late entry to the market.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the fast-food chain has ventured into the Japanese market with the opening of its inaugural branch in Tokyo's Shibuya district on April 16.

Mom's Touch CEO Kim Dong-jeon (Mom's Touch) Mom's Touch CEO Kim Dong-jeon (Mom's Touch)

Mom’s Touch CEO Kim Dong-jeon revealed that the decision to expand to Japan stemmed from a desire to assess whether the brand's proven success at home could be replicated in a market known for its sophisticated dining culture.

"Mom’s Touch’s brand mission of delivering exceptional value and experience at reasonable prices has resonated strongly in Korea," Kim told The Korea Herald. "Japan's developed dining scene presented an ideal opportunity to showcase our product's appeal."

Strategically situated just moments away from Shibuya Station, Mom’s Touch's new three-story establishment spans approximately 418 square meters and occupies an area formerly held by the global fast-food giant McDonald's for the past 39 years.

Kim emphasized that Shibuya was carefully chosen due to its bustling foot traffic, providing an ideal platform for the brand to introduce itself to Japanese consumers and gain traction in the local market.

"While Shin-Okubo, known as a Korean town in Japan, could have provided stable returns, we opted for Shibuya to showcase our brand to a broader audience," explained Kim.

Despite challenges posed by factors such as the ongoing global economic slowdown, Kim remains optimistic about the prospects of Japan's fast-food industry, especially the enduring appeal of burger products among Japanese consumers.

The weaker Japanese yen also affected its pricing strategy positively. The price for its signature product, the Thigh Burger, is set at 520 yen ($3.28) in Japan, slightly cheaper than the 4,600 won ($3.34) it charges in Korea.

In addressing supply chain issues, Kim outlined a hybrid approach. Core ingredients, such as sauces, would be sourced from Korea to maintain consistency in taste, while other items like vegetables and buns would be procured locally to ensure freshness.

In particular, Kim underscored that he views Japan as a strategic foothold for Mom’s Touch's aspirations for global expansion.

"If Mom's Touch succeeds in gaining recognition from Japanese consumers, I believe it would serve as an indication of potential success on a global scale," said Kim. "Upon achieving success in the Japanese market, we can also anticipate expanding into regions such as North America and Europe."

When asked about the perception of the brand's name, which some English speakers find a bit strange, Kim explained that it was a reference to homemade food to symbolize the use of high-quality ingredients, care and effort.

Interior of Mom's Touch's Shibuya branch in Tokyo, Japan (Mom's Touch) Interior of Mom's Touch's Shibuya branch in Tokyo, Japan (Mom's Touch)

"Similarly to Korea, in Japan, the brand name 'Mom's Touch' is understood as conveying the warmth and friendliness of a mother," Kim affirmed. "Considering Japan's cultural values that prioritize family and affection, I'm confident that the name 'Mom's Touch' will be well-received by Japanese consumers as well."

Mom’s Touch, established in 2004, started as a subsidiary of TS Food & system, the Korean operator of Popyeyes. In 2019, KL& Partners, a local private equity firm, acquired the brand, becoming the largest shareholder.

Currently, it operates stores in Thailand, Mongolia and the US through partnerships with local operators.