DUBLIN, Ohio – A new joint-venture Wendy’s restaurant in Japan, located in Tokyo’s Omotesando area, recently opened. Starting with Tokyo, Wendy’s Japan LLC plans to open approximately 100 Wendy’s restaurants within the next five years and estimates the long-term market potential to be about 700 restaurants.

This new location is the first Wendy’s restaurant to operate in Japan in two years. “Wendy's operated in Japan before, but with a different franchisee — and left the [Japanese] market about two years ago,” a company spokesman told MEATPOULTRY.com.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Wendy's, announced it planned to withdraw from the Japanese market and close its stores there after a 29-year presence in an Asian market long dominated by McDonald's Corp., The Associated Press reported at the time.

Former manager of Wendy’s in Japan, Zensho Co. Ltd., announced at that time it would end its contract with Wendy's/Arby's Group Inc. and close the country's 71 Wendy's burger shops by the end of 2009. Wendy's first shop in Japan opened in 1980. The burger chain was managed by retailer Daiei Inc. until 2002 when Zensho assumed the business. In the fiscal year to March 2009, Wendy's in Japan generated 6.2 billion yen ($70 million) in sales.

In explaining Wendy’s departure from Japan, a Zensho spokesman said two years ago, "We will focus our resources on beef bowl restaurants and others. The closure is part of our business plans."

Earlier in 2011, Wendy’s Japan LLC was created as a joint venture between Wendy’s and Higa Industries Co. Ltd. Before selling a formerly owned pizza business in February 2010, Ernest Higa, founder of Higa Industries and chief executive officer of the joint venture, owned and operated 180 Domino’s Pizza stores in Japan.

Pioneers of the Japanese home-delivery market, Higa’s stores earned a reputation for gourmet pizza products and utilizing the internet and wireless technology to promote menu items and enhance customer ordering.

“The opening of our first joint venture restaurant in Japan is an important step in our international growth plans, and an expression of our confidence in the future of Japan,” said Darrell van Ligten, president, International, The Wendy’s Company.

“We are reintroducing to Japan signature Wendy’s products, including made-to-order, premium hamburgers with square beef patties, chicken sandwiches, entrée salads, chili [and more],” Higa said. “At the same time, we’ll further differentiate our restaurants by adding innovative new menu options created exclusively for the Japanese market, including the Avocado Wasabi hamburger and the Truffle and Porcini Grilled Chicken sandwich.”

The Wendy’s Company is the world’s third-largest, quick-service hamburger company. Its system includes more than 6,500 franchise and company restaurants in the US and 26 countries and US territories worldwide.