End of $3 ramen Japan’s comfort food is being squeezed by inflation

Ramen has become a popular and affordable Japanese meal due to inflation.

According to Japan’s interior ministry, the average price of a bowl ramen bowl was 617 yen ($4.57 current rates). This is the highest price recorded since 2000, when it started tracking the data. Both national chains and mom & pop operations are finding it difficult to keep their customers happy with rising food prices.

Hiroshige Hidaka, president of Hiday Hidaka Ramen Chain Operator, stated that “we’ve been doing everything we could to keep prices from rising, but we’ve finally reached our limit.”

The company’s ubiquitous Hidakaya restaurant chain is well-known for its cheap prices. A bowl basic, no-frills, ramen will set you back 390 yen (or $3). It has stood firm against hikes even though its rivals gave in, instead automating more of the prep work and adopting a tablet based ordering system to offset rising food costs.

This strategy has been mostly successful. Traffic to existing stores increased 28.8% over the previous year in the March-May period. This was partly due to Japan’s lifting of coronavirus restrictions in March. Aono added that “our decision not to lower our prices contributed as much”

Still, even Hidakaya cannot fight inflation forever. The wheat used in the making of the noodles and the soy sauce are on the rise. The chain has been especially affected by an increase in pork and fat, which it imports as a part.
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