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Mr. Shuji Minami

Mr. Shuji Minami[Profile]

Secret behind the great success of the Marunouchi Tanita Cafeteria

Mr. Shuji Minami
Manager of Tanita Cafeteria NS Division

Marunouchi Tanita Cafeteria (Chiyoda City, Tokyo), opened in January of this year, was born from a recipe book that sold over 1 million copies. The boom in health consciousness has made the cafeteria so crowded that it now distributes numbered lunch tickets. Indeed, the cafeteria has been so successful that it has changed the flow of people in the neighborhood. Tanita Corporation is a pioneer in precision scales which monitor health and can even measure body fat percentages. Although the cafeteria is a new business, it now defines the company. We spoke with Manager Shuji Minami (33), a 2001 graduate from the Chuo University Faculty of Policy Studies and a person who sparked the cafeteria boom.

Great popularity that has brought customers even to adjacent restaurants

Tanita's Marunouchi Cafeteria is located in an international office building in the business center of Marunouchi. Although the cafeteria is not listed on the information panel for tenants, salespeople working in a shop at the building's entrance were quick to give me directions. "Just go downstairs," they say. "You can't miss it." Tanita's cafeteria is so popular that it has increased the number of customers at nearby restaurants and shops.

Entrance to the Marunouchi Tanita Cafeteria

Inside of cafeteria (max. seating for 70)

When visiting the cafeteria for my report, I chose the "BBQ Chicken Meal," which was the daily lunch. In addition to the main dish of chicken, the meal included a stir-fry of Japanese radish and tuna, a vegetable side dish with spinach, tomato miso soup and rice. The meal contained only 408 kilocalories and 3.5 grams of sodium. It cost 800 yen. Around 500 kilocalories is the ideal amount of energy for a single meal. Sodium should be about 3 grams. Rice in the cafeteria uses a self-service system. The inside of rice bowls have two lines; an upper line which equates to 150 grams and a lower line which equates to 100 grams. Mr. Minami greets customers with a smile and explains the cafeteria system. Tables are equipped with timer which measure the time spent eating. It is said that 20 minutes is the ideal time. Upon entering the cafeteria, I gradually felt myself becoming more health-conscious.

Menu for May 7th

Tanita Corporation's employee cafeteria has also been the subject of much attention. Apparently, the cafeteria is inlayed with modern maxims such as "stay slim," "diet" and "promote health." Tanita has grown businesses such as health meters, cooking scales and other products which focus on measurement. Employees wear pedometers and are required to weight themselves once per week using scales in the company. Employees with good measurements are rewarded. This company environment led to the publishing of an employee cafeteria recipe book entitled Body Fat Scale Tanita Employee Cafeteria and other sequels. A total of 4.9 million recipe books have been published and the company has changed trends in Japanese society.

Two year after sales of the books began, interest was still increasing steadily. Tanita's call center was flooded with calls by regular people who wanted to eat at the employee cafeteria. These calls increased to such an extent that it interfered with inquiries regarding Tanita's main business products.

Open recruitment within company for a cafeteria supervisor

Tanita Corporation decided to enter the cafeteria business and held open recruitment within the company for a supervisor. Mr. Minami applied and was selected for the job. The project started full-scale in August 2011, beginning with creating a cafeteria. Immediately before being appointed as supervisor of the cafeteria, Mr. Minami was involved in creating another new business called Health Record, an internet-based system for supporting health. The fundamental aspect of dieting is measurement. Mr. Minami developed a program which automatically graphed data and combined measurements such as a pedometer and a device for measuring blood pressure. The program makes it easy to continue a health-conscious lifestyle and leads to a successful diet. It was the start of many hit ideas for Mr. Minami.

Mr. Minami is full of ideas. One example is the meal ticket machine at the entrance to the Marunouchi cafeteria. In addition to buttons for the daily lunch and weekly lunch, he also created a surprise button for a professional-use precision health scale costing 2 million yen. By adding a new twist to Tanita's fundamental mission of supporting efforts to prevent obesity, the company's activities have become such a hot topic that they are covered by variety TV shows. Although Mr. Minami says that he is just playing around and trying new ideas, he seems satisfied with the great success of his project. The cafeteria also conducts free counseling using a professional-use precision health scale.

Counseling room

Employment search which focused on society's future

Mr. Minami's ideas were raised during his time in the Faculty of Policy Studies at Chuo University. The faculty was established in 1993 and Mr. Minami was part of the fifth graduating class. "It was a new faculty, so I was interested in similar faculties at other universities," he says. "I entered a club that held student mixers and cooperated with students from Keio University, Kansai University and Ristumeikan University in order to plan new projects, recruit participants and oversee operation. It was a very useful experience."

His ideas were in full effect when he chose an employer. Japan has an aging population, which creates necessity for ideas related to health, prevention, nursing and medical treatment. "It was a very difficult time for university graduates to find employment. Although I received offers from financial institutions and mass communication companies, I focused on future potential and foresight. I also repeatedly visited companies in which I was interested."
His social analysis and passion led him to receiving an offer from Tanita.

Mr. Minami stands 174 centimeters tall and weighs 60 kilograms. His body fat is about 7% to 8%. A single-digit body fat percentage is a word-class level. It rivals that of the Seattle Mariner's Ichiro, who broke many major league batting records, and Mizuki Noguchi, an Olympic gold medalist in the women's marathon. "I eat balanced meals at Tanita and enjoy my hobbies of running, walking and cycling," says Mr. Minami. "There are no elements of obesity in my lifestyle."
"After all," he adds, "my body is one of my sales tools."

It's easy to envy Mr. Minami, who has been blessed with both meaningful work and a healthy body.

Shuji Minami
Manager of the NS (Nutrition Food Service) Division at Tanita Corporation. Graduated from the Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University. Entered Tanita Corporation in 2001. After working in sales and new business development, assumed his current position in August 2011. 33 years old. Born in Osaka Prefecture.
Successfully completed the 2011 Moscow Marathon in 2011 (5 hours and 18 minutes). Has also completed five half-marathons (Yamanakako Road Race, etc.).