What is approximately 3.5 feet wide, 7 feet long, and can generate a great profit for restaurants?

A Sushi Bar.

I was inspired to blog about this after learning about a successful American chain in South Florida that has come to embrace this Japanese concept: Quarterdeck Restaurants.  Before we discuss them, let’s first take a look at some numbers.

One of the most common items sold at just about any sushi restaurant is the California Roll.  With all of its’ ingredients: seaweed, rice, rice vinegar, cucumber, avocado, imitation krab sticks, cream cheese, wasabi, ginger, soy sauce, and the sushi chef, this roll can be made for under $1.50.  Now let’s look at the average selling price: 5$.  Higher end restaurants can probably tack on an extra 2-5$ or more if they really wanted to.  That’s over 300% profit!  This is excluding sashimi and sushi a-la-carte items.  Also toss in the fact that the dishes are not made to be filling (compared to a burger and fries or other large entree) and the customer will probably end up ordering at least two.

Unfortunately, there is a problem of there being too many sushi restaurants in certain parts of the states.  In Florida there are often as many as 10 sushi restaurants within 5 miles of each other, and more locations than Burger King and McDonalds combined.  All this competition means all the restaurants must do something “different” to survive, and many are.  Many of them are a mix between Japanese Sushi and Thai, Chinese, or Korean food.  This is where Quarterdeck restaurants comes in.

Quarterdeck restaurants has done something very unique, fusing two very different cultures/cuisines and turned it into their own, unique dining experience.  You could say “ok that’s easy, just put sushi on my menu.”  No.  In fact, they are even doing sushi better than many other sushi restaurants.  After a small discussion with some of the chefs, and tasting their food, I found that they actually use higher quality products (fish, rice, wasabi, etc…) than many other sushi places.

Walking in to one of their locations, you will notice that the the menu items, employee dress code, and even the sushi bar all feel like they belong.  Everything blends together very nicely to create an atmosphere for people who live for the beach, the ocean, or yachting.  That is their company culture.  It seems they have even begun to expand the menu to add other typically Asian cuisines like Egg Rolls (with Lobster); using higher quality ingredients than those in traditional Chinese restaurants.  Reading the typically Asian dishes on the menu did not make me feel like I was ordering something foreign.  Instead it felt like I was ordering a unique dish that this restaurant came up with that couldn’t be found anywhere else.

Some places may sell both Japanese food, and Chinese food separately, then call themselves fusion; Quarterdeck successfully came up with delicious dishes that blended both American and Asian cuisines, in an environment that is also very welcoming to the locals.

Compare this to another nearby restaurant with a similar theme that also tries implementing sushi, and we’ll just call them “qwerty.”  First, and foremost, qwerty doesn’t even have a sushi bar, they just sell raw seafood and sushi.  Qwerty has a guy in the back making sushi because it’s on the menu.  Perhaps this is all part of their strategy, but it shows qwerty probably doesn’t really care or know much about sushi.  Sushi chef’s are traditionally center stage, as the customers watch them slice their fish, decorate the plate with a fanned out cucumber or orange slice, and mold the rice into a perfect shape to rest the fish upon.  Regulars come to chat with these sushi chefs, and get to know them on a first name basis talking to them about anything from sports to family.  Even the less social sushi chefs still have something to offer to their audience.  If a qwerty knew this, they would not just have a guy making sushi in the back corner of the kitchen.

As restaurateurs, businessmen, and entrepreneurs, the group running Quarterdeck is setting a trend.  A trend that brings cultures together.  A trend of true fusion that sets them apart from other businesses.  What’s more is that they have done all this in a welcoming, neighborhood restaurant where families may feel comfortable enjoying something exotic.

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