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Aiming to open 50 locations throughout the US by 2028

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By Keiko Fukuda

“Sushi Stop” is a sushi restaurant chain which has 6 restaurants in the Los Angeles suburbs including Hollywood, Sawtelle, Pasadena, Studio City, etc. Its original owner opened the first location in the 2010s as “a restaurant where you can eat sushi casually at a reasonable price setting”. The restaurant ran successfully, and has continued to add locations. I asked what has triggered Sushi Stop’s turning point. “I heard that it was the YouTube video that ignited the popularity,” answered Kaori Ito, who has been working for the company since 2013. The video clip was uploaded on YouTube in 2016 by BuzzFeedVideo. In the video, 2 YouTubers compare a $250-per-person sushi restaurant and a $3 restaurant. Sushi Stop appears as the $3 restaurant, and the YouTubers make comments in surprise saying “It is unbelievable that such fresh and delicious sushi is offered at this price!”

“A moment after the video was released, people swarmed to all our locations. We got so busy, and never had time to take a break for a long time,” said Ms. Ito thinking back. By the way, as of March of this year, this video has been viewed 29.95million times. I don’t know how many of those people have viewed it more than once, but you can say that it simply made 29.95 million people know about the existence of Sushi Stop. Then in October of 2018, the Sushi Stop chain became part of Japan’s MM Group Holdings, and made a new start. I asked Mr. Sho Tahara, the Director of Product Development of Sunrise Services, and also the COO of Sushi Stop, when I met him at its Studio City location, what part of Sushi Stop got the company interested, and he said, “First, it is their locations. All the locations are good. Also they are targeting Americans. Targeting Americans means the base is broad.

Especially here at the Studio City location, nearly 100% of the customer are Americans (non-Japanese). However, about 10% of the Sawtelle location customers are Asians. So the customer ratio varies depending on the location.” I asked next why they are so popular among American customer.

She said, “I think it is because the price matches the value. In other words, the cost performance is excellent. The average cost per person is $18. Many Americans are very value-conscious. Attracting as many customers as possible with reasonable pricing is the success factor.”

In fact, the Sawtelle location has as many as 400 visitors a day. Sure enough, in the Sawtelle District where there are various Japanese restaurants serving sushi, curry, udon, etc., you see many people waiting in front of Sushi Stop. “On the other hand, due to the fact that we are so busy, we sometimes receive comments about our staff not being very attentive. We never had a system to train our employees before, so we are planning to allocate a supervisor at each location, and implement training programs for human resources training.”

Mr. Tahara mentions, “cost performance”, many times. As introduced in the video as a 3-dollar sushi place, even the current menu still offers a reasonable price setting. Each pair of salmon, yellowtail, mackerel, shrimp sushi, etc. is $3.50, and roll sushi such as California roll, spicy tuna roll, and salmon avocado roll are $4.50 for 8 pieces. However, the most popular items are not nigiri type, but are the very California-like easy-to-understand tasting items such as the Dynamite roll or Popcorn-Shrimp roll.

“As they say, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’, I would like to keep offering the kinds of menus that are well received by Americans. And, eventually, my goal is to take Sushi Stop to Japan. I want to make Sushi born in Los Angeles popularized in Japan in a prospect of reverse importation,” Tahara says.

In the US, the Olympic Games will be held in Los Angeles in 2028, and they have a goal to open a total of 50 locations in the next 10 years before that. He spoke of his aspiration as follows. “In order to reach the goal, I would like to implement a new marketing strategy by using social media.”


目標は2028年までに全米50店

ハリウッド、ソーテル、パサデナ、スタジオシティなどロサンゼルス近郊に6店を構える寿司レストランチェーン、Sushi Stop。前オーナーが、2010年代に入ってから「リーズナブルな値段で気軽に寿司が食べられる店」としてオープン、店は成功し、店舗数を増やしていった。何がSushi Stopの転機となったかを聞くと、2013年から同社に勤務する伊東香里さんは「You tubeの動画で人気に火がついたことです」と教えてくれた。その動画は2016年にBuzzFeedVideoがYou tubeにアップしたもので、二人のユーチューバーが単価250ドルの寿司店と3ドルの寿司店を食べ比べる内容。Sushi Stopは3ドルの寿司店として登場、ユーチューバーは「こんな新鮮で美味しい寿司がこの価格だとは信じられない」というリアクションを見せている。

「動画がアップされた途端、全店に顧客が押し寄せ、休む暇がないほど忙しい時期が続きました」と伊東さんは振り返る。ちなみにこの動画、2019年3月時点での閲覧数は2,995万回に達している。この手の動画を繰り返し見る人がいるかどうかわからないが、単純に考えれば2,995万人にSushi Stopの存在をこれまで知らせたことになる。

そして、2018年10月、Sushi Stopは日本のMMグループホールディングスの傘下に入り、新しいスタートを迎えた。Sushi Stopのどんな点に興味を覚えたのか、スタジオシティ店で会ったサンライズサービスの商品開発部部長であり、Sushi Stopのチーフ・オペレーション・オフィサーである田原祥さんに聞くと次のように答えた。

実際に、ソーテル・サウス店の1日の来客数は400人にのぼる。寿司、カレー、うどんと様々な種類の日本食レストランがひしめくソーテルにあって、確かにSushi Stopの前には多くの入店待ちの客がたむろしている光景が見られる。「しかし、多忙なせいでスタッフのサービスが雑だというコメントをいただくこともあります。これまでは従業員に対してトレーニング制度がなかったので、今後は各店にスーパーバイザーを配置して人材育成のためのトレーニングを実施していく計画です」

田原さんの口からは何度も「コストパフォーマンス」という言葉が出る。動画でも3ドル寿司と紹介されているが、現在のメニューでも、サーモン、ハマチ、さば、エビなどが2貫で3ドル50セント、カリフォルニアロール、スパイシーツナロール、サーモンアボカドロールなどの巻物も8ピースで4ドル50セントと良心的な価格設定だ。

しかし、人気のメニューは握りではない。ダイナマイト巻き、ポップコーンシュリンプロールといったカリフォルニアらしい、分かりやすい味の寿司が最も出るという。

「郷に入れば郷に従え、の精神で、アメリカ人に受け入れられるメニューを中心に提供していきます。そして最終的には日本にSushi Stopを持ち込むことが目標です。ロサンゼルスで生まれた寿司を日本で流行らせる、逆輸入を視野に入れています」

米国では、2028年のロサンゼルス・オリンピック開催年までに50店舗を展開する10カ年計画を掲げている。目標達成のためには「SNSを使った新たなマーケティング戦略を実行に移したい」と、田原さんは抱負を語った。



Sushi Stop
11837 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604
(818)760-4444
https://sushistop.com

Open Daily 11:30am-10pm
Fri. & Sat. 11:30am-11pm
#alljapannews #sushistop #CA

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