The Man Who Saved Sabi

Posted: September 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

“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… thing remained.


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).


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.

  1. Wow, he sounds like an awesome guy! That was some luck!

    Sabi Sushi saved the day for me! I didn’t make lunch today (pb&j or turkey sandwich?) I was thinking about where to get some food… subway? nah, salad? nope…

    Then I received an email from a coworker about free sushi today… I jumped on the opportunity after the first few words, made my way to your website and placed my order.

    I wasn’t sure how the whole thing worked, but I went to the drop off and hung around until I saw a new delivery (I never got the email or a call, but I’m guessing you guys will figure that one out in a jiff.) I grabbed my food and left to enjoy it.

    I tell you what though, I would have gladly paid for this delicious meal. I wasn’t sure if the free thing was for real, so I went down, wallet in hand, ready to pay if it wasn’t. I was told to leave feedback and this is the only way I could figure out to do so.

    What a brilliantly awesome concept!

    I wish I thought of, could be a part of, or could invest in it.

    Best of luck to Sabi Sushi!

    I look forward to that gem of a meal more often!

    Thanks for lunch,


    • A lot of e-mails are getting forwarded to spam since it’s a Gmail account we send them from — we’re going to do texts or calls as well 🙂

      • A reply from The Man himself! Cool. I didn’t get an email that day, I looked in the spam folder as well.

        Must have been a glitch in the matrix. Haha.

        Anyways, it’s nothing that would stop me from ordering again.

        How are you going to decide where to send the “Sabi is ready” response?

        Customer clicks to choose their desired means of contact? That would be handy.

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