Archive for September, 2011

TGIF

Posted: September 30, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Great Friday in the world of Sabi. We broke our speed-record for rolls per hour while jamming to great music in the kitchen (You know how the kitchen crew does it: Classic Rock Fridays).

Before we head out for some afternoon tennis and a Friday night out on the town, I thought I’d leave you with a few gems.  A video of our latest guerilla marketing campaign, and the feedback from today’s customers.

the video 

 

the feedback – as always, these are real emails from real customers.

I’m just finishing my first meal from Sabi Suishi and wanted to give you guys Kudos.  The delivery guy arrived right on time and refused to accept a tip because “exceptional service comes standard.”  I started with the spicy tuna bites and immediately regretted not ordering more.  These tiny bites packed a powerful, savory flavor and were the highlight of the meal.  I’ll definitely be ordering the roll version next time.  The Crunchy roll lived up to its name and paired perfectly with the sauce that it came with.  It wasn’t as spicy as I anticipated from the description but I was able to get it to the perfect level with the wasabi.I hope the feedback helps.  Thanks for a great meal!  – Brian

Food really was great, fresh  and fast.  I’m a sushi snob, but this was definetly up to par.  Thanks! – William

thats it for us, see you next week!

Shaan

The Restaurant Without a Restaurant

Posted: September 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

For our loyal readers, bear with me. In fact, scoot over, make room on the bandwagon, because we’ve got some new passengers. About 3 weeks ago we made our first official Sabi roll, first Sabi dollar, and first loyal customer (Hi Deborah 😉 )

To those that we meet each day in Denver, we seem like a strange proposition. ‘Delivery sushi?’ ‘dropzones?’ ‘the online restaurant?’

Well yes. It’s actually pretty cool. You order online (www.sabisushi.com), we make your order fresh in the kitchen, and then we notify you when your order is ready for pickup at one of our designed ‘dropzones’ (hotspots) downtown. The whole process from ordering to eating will take you about 25 minutes, and cost you under $10…not bad for high quality ingredients, prepared fresh daily (that’s why when you’ll often see the “sold out!” sign go up on the website…we make it fresh, so when we’re out, we’re out.)

So that’s what it is….now why is it different. Why have we been featured on CNN Money, the Denver Post, and  why have we now become a finalist in the largest startup competition in the world?  3-game changers.

1. The online storefront – Challenging the restaurant industry adage “location. location. location.” mantra. What happens if you make your location accessible from every office cubicle, laptop computer, or mobile phone? Just click what you want, when you want it, and we’ll do the rest.

2. The Dropzone Delivery model – the current delivery system for most restaurants has one driver/biker going from customer to customer to customer trying to deliver each meal individually.

Well we figured that,  in a dense downtown system, it makes more sense to have hotspots throughout downtown where customers can come down from their cubicle (they spoke and we listened: “we want to get the hell out of the office for lunch!”) and meet us at the nearest designated Dropzone. This way, even if Mr. CEO takes an extra 5-6 minutes to come get his food, our other deliveries are not delayed because we’re just waiting at our central dropzone for customers to come pickup their food while the car makes a continuous loop from the kitchen (1.6mi away) to the dropzone.

3. Making Delivery….not suck. 

Did you know that the word “tips” comes from the acronym “To Insure Proper Service”? Well for us at Sabi, great service is just how things should be, not something we do for a couple extra bucks. That’s where our “delivery makeover” started. No tips. No delivery fees. No Styrofoam packaging (see below). No soggy food (dipping sauces on the side!). Never late (Dropzone delivery method above!).

That’s not the full story. It doesn’t talk about the crazy things we’ve done this past year, the amazing people we’ve met,  sushi bootcamp in Los Angeles, or how we thought of the “restaurant without a restaurant” concept to begin with.

Let us know what you think of the concept (click the little speech bubble in the top right hand corner of the page to leave a comment), or email shaan@sabisushi.com with advice, compliments, criticisms (you name it, I want it)…and if you’re in Denver, you know what to do. Get in there and order, because WE are Sabi Sushi, and we are bringing fresh back to the mile high.

-Shaan

Sabi Makes The Examiner!

Posted: September 20, 2011 in Uncategorized
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this is why we do what we do

Posted: September 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
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the video blog

Posted: September 14, 2011 in Uncategorized
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trying out a new style for future video blogs…whaddya  think?

 

“I am the greatest… I said that even before I knew I was.” – Muhammad Ali

 

Those of you who’ve been following the Sabi story know how crazy our new idea has been.  Those of you who’ve really been listening know that we conceived the idea for the “Restaurant, without a Restaurant” just one month ago. On that day, we looked at all the steps needed to launch and couldn’t see a major holdup. That’s why we decided, “we’re launching in a month. September 1st. No excuses”.

You see, there’s a theory called Parkinson’s law, which states that:

“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

Now there’s a reason all procrastinator’s out there are shaking their head. They know this law is true. There’s a reason we pull all-nighters on projects that we’ve had assigned to us for months. There’s a reason we’re watching Youtube videos about kids babbling after a trip to the dentist rather than starting on that term paper. For most of us, work won’t get done until the last possible moment that it could’ve gotten done.

From there on out, we hustled, got our kitchen space secured, bought equipment at restaurant going-out-of-business-sales, and worked on our operations work-flow. As we knocked out item after item on our to-do list – licenses, hiring, uniforms, marketing…..one thing remained.

“website”.

This wasn’t a trivial task either. With the “restaurant without a restaurant” our entire storefront was online. No website meant no orders. No orders meant no business. We actually neared one week until launch…this was becoming a problem. And that my friends, is when we met the man, the myth, the legend: Frank LoVecchio.

Let me paint you a picture. Standing 6’1″, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Tom Brady, Frank LoVecchio is programming’s answer to Bobby Fischer.

We met Frank in typical Sabi dumb luck. We were doing sushi tastings on in downtown Denver leading up to our launch and invited our interns to our first tasting. Claire, one of our awesome interns from Boulder asked if she could bring some friends. Those friends were not our target customer, college-aged, Boulder residents, whereas we were targeting professionals in downtown Denver. Now when most start-ups would be trying to conserve money, or just being smart and inviting only potential customers to their pre-launch buildup….we just said yes! It sounded like a fun group, so we had no problem giving away ~$100 of free sushi to them.

The tasting went great (video here), and after 2.5 hrs of eating, drinking, and getting to know each other – the question was asked: “wait so you guys were launching in a week (yes)?? are you ready (no)?!? do you have the website made yet (not even close)???” . This is right about when we realized this is a problem. You see, Trevor had designed the site on Photoshop, but apparently there’s a difference between a picture and a website.  That’s when Frank revealed himself to be more than a sushi eating connoisseur. He gave us a smooth “send me what you want in an email, I’ll try to hammer it out this weekend.”

This weekend…this weekend!? We had taken this project to larger web development firms and they had estimated that it’d take 2-3 months at the minimum, and would cost us about $50-75k. We couldn’t afford it, and the timeline didn’t fit. As we often say in the house – “no time for haters! we launch in 3 days!” and we kept chugging along. So we sent him an email of what we wanted, and the weekend went by with only cryptic tweets like this:

Judging by the fact that we didn’t understand 11 out of the 20 words in the tweet, things were looking optimistic.

The weekend went by and Frank gave us a little email “hey. lets meet up tonight, I want to go over a few things with the site.” We were now 2 days away from launching, and I had a knot in my stomach. There’s no way that he could build a site like this in one weekend..

We arrived at the Rock Bottom Brewery and after a few awkward minutes of small talk foreplay for the website showcase, he finally whipped it (laptop) out. At first, his desktop looked like any other, a random picture with a few icons scattered across it. Then he hit some combination of keys I must’ve never thought to combine, because his computer reacted with a huge flood of code that was described by Trevor as: “it looked like the matrix took a shit on his screen”.

He continued to tap away and showed us the site. First, it was beautiful. Trevor’s picture design from Photoshop had been translated perfectly to CSS styling code, and the click-to-order system was simple and elegant (coincidently, elegant simplicity is the English translation of Sabi). He then explained what he had done. Creating a customer history database that automatically recognizes returning customers, an email notification system, a queuing interface for our kitchen, and all the goods. I felt like Xhibit was going to come around the corner and notify me that MTV just pimped our website. There were still minor issues (I’m sure Frank would love to talk to you about how much he enjoys the fact that Internet Explorer is too dumb to understand his web dev. genius, so view the site on firefox/safari/chrome ..or really anything except Internet Explorer).

VIEW THE FINISHED SITE HERE :

All we were asking for was a resizable picture on the web that would allow people to see the menu, then call in and order. Now we had a powerful interface with information storage capabilities that would allow us to do some really innovative things with customer service and loyalty programs.

We couldn’t believe it. No exaggeration, I looked at Trevor halfway through the meeting and saw that he was having just as much trouble with the pollen in the bar as his eyes filled with water…This guy had not only saved our ass by putting up the website just in the nick of time to make our arbitrary, yet important, Sept 1st deadline…but he did things that we didn’t plan on having until 6-8 months down the road. This gave us an edge, this gave us a chance to blow people away. AND he did the whole thing for free. Jesus Christ, even now, it takes me back.

More importantly, he’s a part of the team. We know that individually, we’re not the smartest. Definitely not the most experienced. Even in the areas that we pride ourselves on, creativity and hard work – there are people out there who are better than us. BUT the one thing we have is that we really…REALLY care about what we’re doing. That’s when you power through fatigue or boredom to get the minor details right, when you care. And they say greatness is just a bunch of really small things done right. That’s the kind of greatness that Frank showed last week. He could’ve easily (and understandably) just done the bare minimum to help us out.

Instead, he attacked the project as if it were his own life depending on it, not ours. He brought his skillset and creativity to the challenge and learned a whole new toolkit while doing the project (just for personal learning). He killed himself to get it all done in a weekend, and put up with our bullshit minor changes of typos etc.. knowing that we needed it to be perfect for Sabi.

What the hell makes a guy do something so amazing for people he hardly knows and for no monetary compensation? Honestly, I have no idea, but what I do know is Frank L. is a special person and what he did saved our asses more than he will ever know (well, he probably knows because he’s so damn smart).

What he did is the perfect example of the do what you do mentality that we’ve been preaching for the past year. He took a project that 98% of the people in the world would have turned down because there was really nothing in it for them, and put everything he had into it, and by doing so he created the foundation for something that could change the whole restaurant industry.  His hard work gave us the chance to do what we do.

It’s funny how it turns out when you fixate your mind on a goal and don’t let yourself consider not living up to your word. That’s why I put the Ali quote at the top, he was the greatest boxer of all time, and said that he was before he even knew it. Sometimes conviction is all that you need, and the world will put the right special people in your life to help you on that path.

Whether its Sabi, helping you build your house, or the new start-up that we already have cooking – we’ll be working together for a looong time. Honestly I could go on and on forever about Frank, but I’ll spare you. Thank you Frank, and as always do what you do.
– the men of Sabi.

Opening Day.

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

Today was two years coming.

Today was two years spent, brainstorming, designing, laughing, pitching, learning, yelling, wondering what the hell we’re supposed to be doing to make this work.

Today was launch day, and it was unbelievable. I’m too exhausted so I won’t get to go into detail with everything that happened (will do that this weekend). I’m exhausted because its 3:41 a.m. and I’m not done writing personal thank-you notes to everyone who ordered today, and because the day started by waking up at 6 a.m….wide-awake. Just thinking.

I wasn’t especially excited about what was going to happen, or nervous that everything would fall apart. Maybe that’s just how things are when you’ve actually poured everything you have into a project like this. You aren’t worried because you know you gave it everything you had, and that’s always going to be enough.

I woke-up, and instead of rushing to get to the million things we had to do in order to be ready for our launch, I just thought for a bit. Thought about how this all started (trying sushi for the first time 2 years ago, and falling in love with it), about when it first started to become real (winning the Duke Start-Up Challenge), about when we hit rock bottom (living in a basement in Greeley, CO), about meeting and training with our Chef/Big brother Phillip Yi, about the big change in our concept, and about today – a day that’s been too long coming.

It took a damn miracle by our godsend Frank LoVecchio for us to even have our website up in time (full story on that is coming this weekend), and although we had a few bugs with the system (sorry all Internet Explorer users…you really need to upgrade to Safari/Firefox/Google Chrome to see our incredible website.), overall things couldn’t have gone better:

Trevor and Dan were killing it on the sushi line, nailing every order on time. Jen, who’s been incredible helping us through this whole experience, all the way from taking/editing our awesome food pictures, to staying in the kitchen with us past 2am doing dishes, was taking orders and keeping our whole delivery system running. Sam, our latest member to the team, fresh off leaving a job many people would kill to get (investment banking in NY), was driving the car, manning the phones, keeping customers happy, us organized, and kicking ass all along the way…you’d think he’s been here 4 years, not just 4 days. And Sarah, a girl we hired today (yes, her first hour of work was also the first hour of the company…) stepped right in and immediately started not just contributing, but actually making us better. I don’t care whether its landing the Apollo space-shuttle, or delivering food downtown…there’s something about being a part of a team that’s firing on all cylinders that’s undeniably special. When everyone embraces their duty, and tries to do it better than its ever been done – that’s when you win. That’s when do what you do makes a whole lot of sense as our motto.

Anyways, here’s the bottom line. The day went great. First and foremost, people loved the food and packaging. Our very first customer ever, Matt, actually came back downstairs an hour later and ordered more of our spicy tuna bites because he was craving them. I’ll take that as a good sign.

Someone also tipped off the Westword that we opened up shop (even though we wanted to keep it under the radar, as a soft opening) – and they put up a great article about us! Full story here!

time to get to sleep. Orders start coming in for day2 in 5 hours!

-Shaan