Archive for December, 2010

Sabi 2010

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

2010 has been one of the craziest years of our lives. We’ve come so far and been a lot of places.

Check out the highlights: SABI 2010 HIGHLIGHT VIDEO

-The Men of Sabi


If you’ve seen the movie The Social Network (and you should, its great), then you know that the Facebook story is pretty interesting. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got a Facebook (and probably only found the blog through our Facebook updates).

The stats are shocking. From its initial launch, Facebook didn’t have the biggest total user base, but it instantly had the highest usage per user (think about how many times a day you check Facebook compared to any other site). Even today as it carries over 500 Million users, over 50% check Facebook at least once a day. In business, there’s no greater satisfaction than being right, and the youngest billionaire alive, Fbook creator Mark Zuckerberg, was right about one thing: The World is Social.

He hedged his bet completely on the addictive and engaging experience of doing something socially. I’m not talking about Facebook/Twitter in particular, or even the broader buzz-word “social media” (I hate that phrase). The social experience is something every business needs to consider – regardless of the industry. It seems simple doens’t it? How much fun is it to eat lunch alone? Does it matter how good the food is? What about your first thought when you travel to a beautiful region of the world…do you find yourself instantly thinking about how much more fun this would be with personX?  The social experience transcends anything that technology can provide, which brings us to our first Rollin’ With Sabi – Case Study: Facebook Photos.

Imagine yourself in Facebook HQ only a few years ago. You’ve got a booming website that allows users to create ‘profiles’ and ‘friend’ other people. How can you enhance the customer experience? Looking back, Facebook Photos are an obvious success, but the answer was not so clear back then. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg only had 2 employees on the project of creating Facebook photos – nowhere near enough marketing/programming/support for a huge feature like Photos.

Not only that, but Flickr was the giant in the industry at the time. Now I can’t exactly call it David vs. Goliath but still, 2 employees vs. A hugely successful and established company looked pretty uninspiring.

Now here is the key moment for any company. You’re the founder. You’re smart enough that you can justify either end of the decision making spectrum. It would be easy to say:

Yes! – We’ve got a huge user base in place, and they spend their time browsing around trying to catchup with old friends, and keeping them up to date with their life travels. Right now its all text-based, so lets bring the proven element of a Photoalbum into Facebook…we’d be stupid not to do it!

No! – How can our 2 employees compete with a company that already has market share? Not only that, but we can’t offer High Resolution uploads or fancy slideshows – meaning we have inferior features. Not only that, but we can’t monetize our efforts because we don’t offer digital printing! So we’re just draining our own resources to create and support this inferior feature…it’d be suicide to do it.



The great thing about starting a business is that you have full decision making power. The bad thing about starting a business, is that you HAVE to make decisions. Decisions that can make you look really smart, or really dumb but you’ll never know until you do it. We’ve faced this hundreds of times already, and our restaurant isn’t even open. Should we serve inside-out rolls (rice on the outside) or stick to our Chef’s signature huge rolls (tons of flavor in every bite, less rice, but seaweed on the outside might scare newbies off)…Should we offer frozen yogurt with fresh-fruit toppings or are we going to be crushed by the Pinkberry’s of the world? I could list a hundred debates that we have every single day, but the point is – its tough to know what will work. That’s why its important to learn from those outside of your own industry. You can learn from how insects act and figure out a better way to improve the assembly line production model that Subway and Chipotle have been doing for years (we did.)

So here we are, looking at the case of Facebook Photos, and seeing what their thought process was, and why it worked. It turns out that the social aspect of sharing photos on Facebook with friends immediately, as Zuckerberg puts it “was the ONE feature that was more important than all the other features [HD pictures, printing options etc…] combined.”

The next question came into play with what we now know as ‘tagging’. Industry experts urged Zuckerberg to consider implementing the latest facial recognition software to ID who was in each picture. However, he knew that the social model of ‘work’ could be the answer. If one member does the ‘work’ of tagging their friends, it turned out to not be as much of a hassle (because going through pictures is fun) and the personal touch of sharing the pictures with your friends attached a more powerful social value to the Facebook Photos experience. Technology is great, but its not the answer. Focusing on what will make the experience better for your customers is the key.

The lessons learned? When you can easily see both sides of the issue being right, its key to take a step back and learn from others successes and failures. Learn that business is changing, Facebook has opened the door for us to realize that the World Is Social. This is why news gets spread faster through Twitter than through traditional outlets (I’d rather hear from my friends what’s going on than from a fake-smiling news anchor). This is why Wikipedia was a collaborative effort that people trust more than they ever did Encarta or Encyclopedia Brittanica. This is why Farmville and Mafia Wars- Social games with poor graphics and rudimentary strategy – have led Zinga (the Social Gaming Company on Facebook) to become the fastest video game company to a $1,000,000,000 Market Cap – already worth more than the long time industry giant E.A.

In fact – after I post this blog, I’ll be checking to see how many people “like” it on Facebook.

Hell, I’ll even take a poke.

Well played Zuckerberg.






Don’t Call it a Diary

Posted: December 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

Dear Sabi Nation,

We are turning our Facebook Fanpage into a video time-line of our adventure from here on out. Once a day we’ll go into the confessional room and record a short 1-2 min video blog about anything in the world.

We just turn the camera on and go – they may turn out funny,  inspirational, or just plain weird – we have no idea what will happen. However, we CAN guarantee that they’ll be unscripted, unedited, and unbelievable (mostly the first two).

We’ve already posted a few up on the page. Click HERE to check them out. Hope you enjoy!

The Men of Sabi

A little help…

Posted: December 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because the bottom line is; I just need a little bit of help.

I’ve been working on the website designs for a couple of weeks now…Going into it I had no idea what I was doing, no idea about how to use Photoshop, no idea about the “rules” of design, no idea that there were specific fonts that are “websafe.” The only thing I really knew was I wanted to make something awesome that could show the personality of Sabi on the internet, so I got right to it…

I installed Photoshop on my 5 year old Dell. Now I officially have 1gb of free space remaining and my laptop now runs in sloth mode. It’s pretty fun when you can make a change on the design, or even just type a word, go grab something to drink, maybe even eat a banana, comeback and the he word is just appearing on the screen…My patience level is phenomenal right now.

I then spent a day at Barnes and Noble reading every web design book they had.

Equipment, check…Inspiration, check.

After a week of working I had a pretty good handle on Photoshop and started banging out designs. With Dan and Shaan in my corner I attacked the designs and sometimes got so into it I would stay up all night working. I had the design fever. I knew things were getting bad when I started dreaming of website designs…It was seriously all that I could think about. But, in the end, this led to some pretty sweet options.

Now to the “help” part… We’ve settled on a Home page layout that we really like but there are 3 different versions. I’ll post them at the bottom so you guys can have a look. If there is anyway you could give me a little feedback it would be amazing. It would even be helpful if you simply just comment about which one you like best (To comment just go back up to the top-right of the post and click that little number that is in the circle and you’re good to go!)



Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Well, which one should it be??

Consider this an apology.

For the past month we’ve been pretty tight lipped about what’s going on with Sabi. Now trust me, this isn’t what we wanted. We made the blog to tell our story, and damnit, that’s exactly what we are going to do.  (eventually)

If you know our personalities, then you understand how much this silence is killing us. We’ve been trying to blog about things we find really interesting like Jimmy V speech or give some insight to our lifestyle in the Thanksgiving Montage.

Right now we’re just 3 dad’s trying to raise our baby – Sabi. We try to give it the best opportunity to grow up and succeed. We’ve read all the books about the process, but now that its really here, its ours, its a surreal experience. And we’re the kinds of dads that carry around a hundred pictures of their kids in their wallets, and force everyone around them look at an uncomfortable amount of pictures until they acknowledge how cute their kids are. (Edit – our loyal reader Johnny B sent us this clip to fully explain the above description. Thanks Johnny)

But we understand why it has to be this way for this short-time period. For example, its hard to negotiate with someone when they can check your blog and get right inside your head!

Still, its tough. It’s tough to keep quiet when you wake-up to an email with the headline “great news ____” …It’s tough to keep quiet when that news is about something you’ve been working towards for the past few months. News that makes you stay up all night with your business partners, covering four 8×7 ft whiteboards with ideas and plans about how we’re going to maximize this opportunity.

Its tough to write a bigger tease than the previous paragraph.
But to everyone following us out there -stay strong. stay tuned. big news is coming soon.

Until then, Sabi Sushi is – Strictly Confidential.


Jimmy V

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Jim Valvano will always be remembered for his tremendous coaching ability, electric story telling and the creation of the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Each year during Jimmy V week ESPN will air his famous 1993 ESPY acceptance speech. And each year I find myself glued to the TV for that brief 10 minutes in awe of the courage, passion and inspiration that man created with his words. There are so many takeaways and lessons to be learned that it seems to have a different effect on me each time that I see it.

This year, as I sat in the living room watching the speech with my two best friends/roommies/business partners there was one point that Coach Valvano made that really rang true to me. He talked about the importance of trying to take the time to laugh, think and allow emotions to bring you to tears each and everyday.  Laughing, thinking and crying, everyday Wow, what a powerful yet unbelievably simple concept.

Looking back on the past few months here at Camp Sabi these words make so much sense to me…  Laugh, Think, Cry. In hindsight I can see how easy it is to forget to do these fundamentaly basic things.

  • How easy it is to be too busy to take a step back, laugh and truly enjoy something.
  • How easy it is to work so hard and frantically that you don’t have to time to sit and put thought into what it is you are actually doing.
  • How easy it is to put your emotions on the back burner as you fully emerge yourself in a task.

It was easy for me to see that the moments of frustration the feelings of helplessness and the road blocks almost always occurred when we, for one reason or another, simply forget to do these three things.

On the other hand I noticed that:

  • Everything seemed to click for us when we could get all of our work done and still have time to laugh and joke like the best friends that we are.
  • We made the most progress when we could take a day and just really think about everything that we were doing.
  • We felt we could conquer any obstacle in the world when we expressed our real emotions (manly way of saying there were tears) and were truly open with each other.

I’m not here to tell anyone how to live, or how to operate a business…Shit, I’m way too young for that. But one thing I do know for sure is a huge part of taking on a project where you truly have zero experience is you have to learn from every possible person or situation you encounter. Today, I learned from one of the greatest teachers of all time, Jim Valvano.

Check out the video, and tell me…What did you learn from Jimmy V? Feel free to leave a comment below I would love to hear your take on this man’s 10 minutes of wisdom.


Soft Drinks & Rice Krispies

Posted: December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

Now I bet most of you are wondering what the title of this blog post has to do with anything…I’ll get to that soon, I promise.

But before I do, I wanted to give a quick update about what I have been up to for the past month – I’ve come a long way from washing dishes! To sum up my job at Noodles, my front-of-the-house role comprised of:

1) Salad/Serve: Prepping salads and bringing the food out to customers
2) Garnish: Putting the cheese/veggies on the noodles/sandwiches
3) Noodles Ambassador: Working the Point of Sale System (cash register)

Side Note: For those of you that still haven’t been to a Noodles & Co. you have to check them out – my recommendations are either (a) Pesto Cavatappi, or if you like spicy food,  (b) the Indonesian Peanut Sauté. If you don’t want pasta, go for the Spicy Chicken Caesar Sandwich  –  Shaan can attest to my skills making spicy caesar dressing…

Anyway, of these positions my favorite would have to be Noodles Ambassador – interacting with customers all day is definitely the most fun part of the job…and where the title of the blog comes in.

While you can only do so much behind the register, over the past month and a half I have found two areas where I have some creative freedom: soft drinks & rice krispies. For those of you that have read Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, I’m talking about the concept of “Free!”.

The best part of my job is randomly giving people drinks and/or rice krispy treats “on the house”. While in theory this seems pretty trivial, you have no idea how happy people get when I occasionally tell them they can have something for free – especially small kids that are clearly eyeing the snacks by the register.

While I’d probably get fired if anyone counted how much I actually gave away, I have to imagine Noodles will make up the cost of these items ten times over in return business. I believe it was Danny Meyer (I know, I’m referencing a lot of Daniels in this blog) that wrote even the smallest gestures of going above and beyond for the customer will differentiate your restaurant over another.

If I can make someone’s day by giving them something worth less than $1, I personally think that it’s totally worth it. A few days ago a mom tried to give me a $5 tip after giving her son a free rice krispy on his birthday  – while I couldn’t accept the tip, I think it shows how much more people value the random gesture over the actual item itself.

In an effort to stop rambling about free rice krispies, I will leave the story at that – I am currently brainstorming some ideas for Sabi that take advantage of pleasant surprises for customers. Let me know if you think of anything – there’s a free rice krispy in it for you…


Edit: Since the writing of this blog I have been fired from Noodles & Co.


But this week was sadly my last. Working at Noodles & Co. has been an amazing experience, and I want to take a moment to thank the entire 29th Street Noodles crew for an awesome month and a half!