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Ippudo is on an ambitious mission to win over customers stateside and beyond, one bowl of noodles at a time. Fueled by a 2017 investment from I&P Runway, a partnership between Japanese holding company Chikaranomoto and Panda Restaurant Group, the Rosemead, Calif.-based parent company of quick-service brand Panda Express, the ramen concept is eager to strengthen its U.S. presence.
Since its humble beginnings in Japan as a 10-seat shop founded by Shigemi Kawahara, known as the “Ramen King,” in Fukuoka in 1985, Ippudo has flourished into a globally recognized brand with more than 240 locations. Its entry into the U.S., however, was more recent, starting in New York City in 2008.
As its main offering, the chain offers bowls of thin noodles in its distinctive Hakata Tonkotsu broth, a Fukuoka variety of pork-based broth cooked at a rolling boil, lending it a rich body and an opaque, milky-white appearance. These bowls come with a range of toppings such as pork belly chashu or soy sauce-flavored boiled eggs. Patrons can also enjoy izakaya-style bites and alcoholic beverages such as beer and sake, with an average check of $20 per person.
Backed by the Panda Restaurant Group partnership, Ippudo has penetrated a new U.S. market: California, with units in Berkeley, San Francisco and Santa Monica. More locations are planned for America in the years to come, as the concept carries out plans to open 300 stores in Japan and 300 more internationally by 2025. In its global growth, a primary focus for the brand is to spread ramen culture.
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