TOKYO -- Beef bowl purveyor Yoshinoya Holdings saw profit per worker grow faster than any other nonmanufacturer in Japan in the first half of fiscal 2019, leading a trend of revenue growth and efficiency improvements outweighing rising wages in a tight labor market.
Yoshinoya's operating profit per full-time employee came to 668,000 yen ($6,135) for the six months through August -- 50.7 times the figure a year earlier -- on the runaway success of its new supersize beef bowls. For all employees, including part-timers, the figure jumped 51.9-fold to 133,000 yen.
The company also expanded its self-service locations, where customers pick up their own food and clear their own tables, to 57 at the end of August, 34 more than a year earlier. Workers at these restaurants take around 20% to 30% fewer steps on average than at standard locations.
Profit per employee is an important indicator for the labor-intensive services sector, which has been squeezed by a chronic shortage of workers. Like Yoshinoya, many of the top performers in Nikkei's ranking enjoyed top-line growth from hit products while working to minimize the impact of labor costs on their bottom lines.
Fellow beef bowl chain operator Matsuya Foods Holdings ranked 19th with profit doubling to 314,000 yen per employee for the April-September period amid brisk sales of such higher-priced items as eel bowls. Similarly to Yoshinoya, it added 80 or so self-service locations, bringing its total to about 280.
To cope with the labor shortage, "we made an effort to improve productivity by automating steps such as cooking," President Kazutoshi Kawarabuki said.
No. 9 on the list, auto parts and accessories retailer Autobacs Seven, saw profit per full-time employee nearly triple, thanks partly to a wave of buying ahead of the consumption tax hike in October.
The company boosted its share of profit from high-margin services, including tire changes and auto inspections. It also found ways to streamline store operations, including rearranging layouts to group together products that require employee explanations.
Peer Yellow Hat's profit per employee rose 80%, putting it in 28th place. It rearranges employee shifts flexibly based on scheduled appointments for such services as replacing tires and installing dashboard cameras, minimizing missed business opportunities.
In the construction industry, which has been hit particularly hard by the labor shortage, many companies have begun using drones to take measurements. Toa -- No. 8 in Nikkei's ranking -- has broadened its construction methods to reduce the burden on workers.
The ranking covered nonmanufacturers with at least 2 billion yen in operating profit in the first half of fiscal 2019, excluding electric and gas companies. Because some companies do not provide information about part-time workers in their financial filings, the ranking counted only full-time employees.