This paper seeks to answer two main questions: whether restaurants using a national brand to capture customers in fact use original national ingredients for producing food and, in cases where original ingredients are not used, what is the economic rationale behind this choice? Specifically, the study focuses on Japanese restaurants in three Southeast Asian countries, using a theoretical model and an empirical investigation based on interviews and survey data collected through field research. Considering restaurants, their suppliers, and their customers, we show how a dual asymmetric-information problem exists, between suppliers and restaurants and between restaurants and their customers. The results indicate that a first reason for buying non-original ingredients—important especially for cheaper restaurants—is a desire to reduce costs. That said, the use of non-original ingredients occurs among all types of Japanese restaurants in the three studied countries. It does not depend on the presence of a Japanese chef or owner, nor on the share of Japanese customers. By contrast it does significantly depend on the reliability of the wholesale channel, and the resultant difficulties that restaurants encounter when buying original ingredients.
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