The number of Japanese restaurants in Thailand grew by 12.6 per cent this year to 4,094, according to the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO).
More than half (2,105) are located in Bangkok. The remainder are located in Chonburi and Nonthaburi (256 each), Chiang Mai (162), Samut Prakan (129), Pathum Thani (102), Phuket (69), Songkhla (68), Nakhon Ratchasima (63) and Nakhon Pathom (56). An increase in sushi outlets was the main reason for the rise.
JETRO president Atsushi Taketani said the customer base for Japanese cuisine was expanding as people became familiar with the food.
Thai consumers have developed a strong appetite for Japanese, as evidenced by the multiplying number of Japanese brands that have made Thailand the largest Asean market for Japanese food.
In fact, Japanese cuisine has been widespread in Thailand for more than three decades. But its popularity surged anew after Japan relaxed visa requirements eight years ago for foreign tourists, including Thais.
However, high competition and the Covid-19 crisis saw 726 Japanese restaurants close this year in Thailand – the highest number since 2007.
He said Thailand’s Covid-19 lockdown saw a 20-30 per cent drop in restaurant sales, forcing many out of business. Restaurants patronised by wealthy Thai customers had recovered quickly, but those dependent on foreign tourists were still struggling, he added.
Despite an uncertain outlook, Taketani said Japanese businesses had already contacted JETRO with plans to open restaurants in Thailand next year.
He added that JETRO has joined AIS, Gojek and GrabFood to organise the “Let’s eat JAPAN” promotion campaign.
This year, Japan exported food and beverages to Thailand worth almost Bt10 billion, mostly seafood, beef, apples, grapes and Japanese rice wine.