It’s getting hard out there for car dealerships. It’s no secret that the way people buy cars is changing, and with the explosion of online auto sales, many traditional automotive dealerships are being forced to generate a greater sense of community in order to win new and repeat business. Strategies that have been successfully employed by car dealerships include maintaining a robust social media presence, hosting “track days” where clients test new vehicles on a closed track and, in Tottori, Japan, selling some of the best damn noodle soup in the country.
Katsumi Yoshida opened the used car dealership, Hot Air, in Tottori in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2012 that he decided to make and sell ramen from the space as well. Six years later he’s getting a nod from none other than the Michelin Guide for his shio (salt broth) ramen.
If it feels strange for a used car dealer to be the recipient of a prestigious food award, consider that said prestigious food award was created and is maintained by a tire company. Yup, it’s a bizarre world we live in where the people who sell tires also make soup, and then the people who made the tires tell us how good the soup is.
Not so bizarre for Yoshida, however, who grew up tasting ramen with his grandmother and has been developing his appreciation for the dish ever since, often using trips to drop off used vehicles as opportunities to try various ramen recipes in different towns over the years. For him, marrying his automotive business with his go-to dish was an obvious choice. So he converted an old meeting room into a place for locals and customers to eat and soon word of his skills in the kitchen started to spread.
Earlier this year, a man in a suit walked into Yoshida’s shop and told him that his ramen would receive a nod in November’s “Michelin Guide Kyoto Osaka + Tottori 2019” in the “Bib Gourmand” category, which recognizes restaurants restaurants serving dishes under a certain price point. Yoshida’s ramen costs just 800 Japanese Yen, or about $9.50, which seems like a steal for something good enough for a Michelin Guide.
Here’s a look inside his unique dealership/ramen shop (heads up, it’s in Japanese):
It’s tricky to imagine this exact strategy working in Canada, but it sure seems to be doing the trick for Yoshida. Would you sample poutine made at your local used car dealership?