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Manager fired for comparing beef bowl marketing to drugging women

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JAPAN – FEBRUARY 11: A man eats a bowl of “Gyudon” at a Yoshinoya restaurant during a one-day revival of the sale of the chain’s signature beef and rice dish in Tokyo, Friday, February 11, 2005. (Photo by Andy Rain/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Japanese multinational fast-food chain, Yoshinoya Holdings Co. fired a senior manager after he compared the beef-bowl restaurant operator’s marketing strategy to drugging young women.

Masaaki Ito, a business development manager, made remarks to that effect as a guest lecturer for a marketing program at Waseda University, a representative for the school wrote in an email. The comments were unacceptable and Ito was dismissed as a lecturer, the institution said in a separate statement.

Ito was relieved of his duties at Yoshinoya, the company disclosed in a filing with the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Tuesday. While the Tokyo-based franchise confirmed he had made inappropriate comments, which emerged on social media, Yoshinoya did not specify what was said. 

Going further in describing his marketing philosophy, Ito said it was his goal to get young girls from the countryside addicted to beef bowls, akin to getting them hooked on methamphetamine before they meet men and opt for more expensive meals. Waseda confirmed the comments.

Yoshinoya is known for its fast, cheap meals of beef served atop bowls of rice, as well as other menu items. Yoshinoya, which operates more than 2,700 stores in Japan and overseas, has one woman on its board, according to the company’s website. The company said in the statement that it enforces compliance measures and seeks to educate its staff on understanding the rules, linking to its governance page. 

“He made incredibly inappropriate remarks regarding gender and human rights issues” leading to his dismissal, Yoshinoya said in the filing. “As of today, we have absolutely no contractual relationship with this individual.”

Yasutaka Kawamura, Yoshinoya’s president, is taking a 30% pay cut for three months. A product launch event scheduled for Tuesday was canceled, the Nikkei newspaper reported without attribution. Yoshinoya’s stock fell 1.7% in Tokyo on Tuesday. The stock had been up 5.3% this year before the remarks became public. 

“The person in question also deeply regrets the remark that made people feel uncomfortable,” Yoshinoya said in the statement, adding that Ito wrote an apology and will apologize in person as well. 

“We deeply regret this matter,” the company said. “We are very sorry.”

Bloomberg

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