How long would you wait to get a taste of an in-demand Kobe beef croquette? If your answer isn’t 43 years, you better move along.
Asahiya, a butcher shop in Takasago, Japan, has a four-decade-long wait list for its frozen croquettes, CNN reported on Monday. There are 63,000 people waiting to get their hands on the treat—deep-fried potato and beef dumplings that started out as a way for the store to familiarize customers with its other Kobe beef offerings.
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“We made affordable and tasty croquettes that demonstrate the concept of our shop as a strategy to have customers enjoy the croquettes and then hope that they would buy our Kobe beef after the first try,” Shigeru Nitta, the third-generation owner of Asahiya, told CNN. “In reality, the Extreme Croquettes got way more popular than other products.”
Founded in 1926, the butcher shop started selling croquettes after World War II. They became available online starting in 1999—with just 200 made every week—and gained popularity in the early 2000s. Since then, Kobe beef fans have been clamoring for the croquettes. Asahiya even had to stop selling them temporarily because the wait had become too long—more than 14 years by 2016. But customers kept requesting the patties, so Nitta added them back to the menu.
Given that the croquettes were initially offered as a way to drum up more business, Nitta sold them at a loss, hoping they would lead to further sales. While the beef in one dumpling cost 400 yen ($2.70) a piece, the croquettes were priced at just 270 yen ($1.80) each. In 2017, the price was raised to 500 to 540 yen ($3.40 to $3.65) and a box of five now sells for 2,700 yen ($18.20). Production has also ramped up, with 200 croquettes made every day.
“We hear that we should hire more people and make croquettes more quickly, but I think there is no shop owner who hires employees and produce more to make more deficit,” Nitta said. “I feel sorry for having them wait. I do want to make croquettes quickly and send them as soon as possible, but if I do, the shop will go bankrupt.”
Thankfully, about half of the people who try Asahiya’s croquettes end up buying more Kobe beef from the shop. And while it’s great for his own business, Nitta hopes that the popular croquettes will draw even more attention to Japan’s local beef industry.
“I’m grateful,” he said. “By becoming famous, I think I can help the whole industry, not just my shop, by making people who have not been interested in Kobe beef get interested. I want to have as many people as possible eat Kobe beef—not just from my shop.”
It’s too bad that Asahiya only ships its croquettes domestically. Perhaps a trip to Japan is called for.
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