Teruki Kodaira is the restaurant director for Le Monde des Gourmet, a business specializing in Italian cuisine and dining establishments. The company worked with GPlusMedia to hire full- and part-time Italian speaking foreign staff for its restaurants across Tokyo and Osaka.
Le Monde des Gourmet operates a multitude of award-winning restaurants in Japan — each of which focuses on preparing and serving only authentic Italian cuisine. With the country’s recent labor shortage, the company — which had previously only hired foreign staff part-time — decided to bring in more workers from other countries to help fill its job vacancies. It found that the right hires could ultimately take on additional jobs such as European culture role models and instructors for its Japanese staff.
We sat down with restaurant director Teruki Kodaira at Tanto Tanto — its flagship restaurant in Shibuya — to talk about how Le Monde des Gourmet found the experience of working with GPlusMedia to hire more non-Japanese staff, its reasons for doing so, what its initial concerns were about the hiring process and any insights about working with non-Japanese staff he might want to pass on to other companies interested in working with GPlusMedia to hire foreigners for a Japanese business.
GPlusMedia services used:
- CareerEngine, GaijinPot
- Job postings, managed search
Please tell us about your business.
Teruki Kodaira: Our company has offered Italian food through our restaurants for nigh on 30 years. We operate 12 restaurants in the Kanto and Kansai regions. In 2019, we received the Marchio Ospitalità Italiana (Italian Hospitality Seal), a restaurant certification from the Italian National Institute for Tourism Research and the Italian Chamber of Commerce. We were the only Japanese restaurateur to receive the certification that year. The certification has strict standards, including the employment of Italian-speaking staff and staff who have experience studying abroad as well as the use of authentic ingredients.
What are some of the reasons behind your decision to hire foreigners in Japan?
TK: To provide our customers with authentic Italian cuisine, we believe that we need to leverage the cooking skills and service capacity of foreign employees. The recent labor shortages were also a factor.
We started recruiting expatriates one to two years ago. We had previously employed them in part-time roles, but that was the start of hiring them as full-time employees. Currently, we have four full-time foreign staff working for us. When recruiting, we had no limitations on the country of origin, so our full-time employees are from South Korea, Egypt, the Philippines and Bangladesh. Our part-time employees include individuals from Italy, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Romania.
When you first started recruiting foreign staff, did you have any concerns?
TK: We were concerned about differences in awareness of hygienic issues. That remains a concern today. We also worried about whether they would understand Japanese culture and society. If they were to try to stick to the principles of individualism too much, the workplace would suffer.
How was your experience using GaijinPot to fill those jobs?
TK: GaijinPot Jobs was the only foreigner recruitment service we used. While the occasional foreigner applies through our homepage or via Japanese recruitment sites, it’s a rare occurrence. I was somewhat surprised at how much higher quality the applicants through GaijinPot Jobs were compared to general recruitment services for Japanese people. I had the impression that many candidates have the skills [we were looking for]. When asked during interviews, most applicants replied that they never look at recruitment sites for Japanese people and they generally use GaijinPot Jobs to find work.
What criteria do you use in your decisions to hire someone?
TK: During application screening, applicants must have work visas. We also look to see if they had the language ability needed to work [for us].
We recruited full-time and part-time employees twice through GaijinPot Jobs, and we interviewed around 20 applicants. Of these, we hired five employees.
During the interviews, we talked about Japanese culture to confirm whether applicants like it. The point is that we want to know whether applicants like Japan to see whether they will live and work here for many years.
What is your impression — positive or negative — of hiring foreigners?
TK: After employing foreigners, our workplace became more cheerful. That was a huge benefit. In terms of problems, we’ve had issues with employees not being able to adapt to Japan’s unique working style, including our focus on hygiene and teamwork, and some employees have not been satisfied with their salaries. I believe we failed to properly communicate these issues during our interviews.
Have you made any efforts to improve the retention of foreigners?
TK: We hold birthday parties for all full-time employees, our foreign staff included. We also frequently hold staff meals through which employees can interact with company representatives. Additionally, our foreign employees sometimes have better language or service skills than our Japanese employees, so we assign them as training instructors or leaders to leverage their abilities. This arrangement helps ensure that they don’t feel lonely. On a personal level, I try to deliberately talk to our foreign employees to stimulate communication.
What is your company’s plan for hiring foreigners going forward?
TK: We run Italian restaurants, so if possible, we would like to increase our numbers of kitchen and front-end staff from Italy. In specialized restaurants, some tasks cannot be done according to a manual or recipe, so reproducibility becomes challenging without people who are experts in the kitchen and with the customer. We want to be a company that offers authentic Italian cuisine in Japan, so we would like the help of foreign employees who have backgrounds in Italian or European cuisine and culture.
Do you have any advice or a message for companies looking to hire foreigners for the first time?
TK: I think you need to look at the positive aspects of each individual. For instance, one of our part-time employees is from Romania and this employee’s best feature is cheerfulness. From the customer’s perspective, there is great value in a smile or frankness. On the other hand, from a Japanese perspective, some employees may appear to have shoddy work skills. However, I want other companies to understand the benefits of hiring foreigners and expand on those, rather than focusing on the negative aspects.