For a sushi restaurant, the feeling of “fondness” is undeniably important. Seeking young people with “ambition”
For people planning to enter the sushi world, what would you say is important for training?
I always say, “The ones who carry on in this world either love this industry or aren’t very bright.” I was working from early in the morning until late at night, but while I was training, I never once thought, “Why is my pay so low?” On the contrary, I thought, “If it’s low, I can get part time work.” These days, many young people start out anticipating “wages” and “vacations.” Frankly, it will be difficult if you feel that way.
Indeed, it’s important to feel that you “like sushi restaurant work no matter what.” What kind of people do you want to work with?
I like young people who have the ambition of wanting to go independent. But there are also many who think, “I want to go independent,” without the necessary preparation, so that alone isn’t enough. Still, that feeling is important.
I often hire people through introductions. On the other hand, people from employment agencies have more expertise, and many of them love cooking, so that has its good points too. In the end, after all, that feeling of “fondness” is important.
We also actively hire university students who work part time. They have “ambition” too, and they’re interesting.
So you also employ university students. But even if they have “ambition,” they aren’t going to work at a sushi restaurant after they graduate, are they?
They don’t, of course. They often go to work for major companies like NTT or as cabin attendants. Actually, my students often go to work at the companies of customers who come to the restaurant.
At “Kurosugi,” even young people working part time will see raises in their hourly pay if they can work, so some ultimately reach ¥1,800. Likewise, if they cut corners or take days off, their pay will drop; but most of them continue working here until they graduate. Because they have “ambition,” they work seriously and customers notice them.
University students don’t often have the opportunity to directly come in contact with those kinds of positions at first-rate companies, so working here offers valuable experiences in addition to part time pay. How about the chefs?
Although students keep working part time, chefs are more difficult. The moment I think, “I did it!” they quit the cooking world. That’s an area I have to study now.
At first, I was running the restaurant alone, but when Mr. Mori said to Mr. Tada, “After all, don’t you think training pupils so their own restaurant can flourish is part of running a sushi restaurant?” I was thinking just the same thing. I myself was trained by many people and all. My hiring and training of people started there. There are also difficult things about it, but I want to continue forward without giving up. Right now I have high expectations for my number two guy, Mr. Shimada.
Concern for others is important. Treating customers preciously as a “girlfriend”
What is important for a sushi restaurant owner?
Unsurprisingly, it’s bad if you don’t read people. Of course you can’t focus only on your workers and ignore your customers.
Merchants who sell high quality fish are limited, so sushi restaurants that use fish that cost over ¥15,000 each aren’t using fish that have much of a difference in quality. But even in the same sushi restaurant, customers want “interaction,” “privacy to enjoy conversations,” and so on. It’s all a matter of “timing.” In order to have timing, you most definitely need to be aware of customers.
What’s the secret to gaining that awareness of “timing” so that you can elevate service?
I often say, “get a girlfriend.” In other words, think about what the other person wants you to do.
After that, at a certain point, I say, “go eat at popular restaurants.” That is, “Go to popular restaurants and ask yourself what makes it popular. You can find good points and implement them.”
I also go out to eat with employees, and we have fun, but the next day I ask, “How was it yesterday?” “Seasonally?” “What were they using? Anything good?” With my number two man Shimada, the standard is “whether you’d want to go there with your wife.” If everyone has those sorts of individual standards, they can use them when they wonder whether they’re serving customers properly.
Do you talk about such things at meetings?
We often start talking like that offhand while stocking. And at “Kurosugi,” we also have study meetings.
Just today we did a study session where we lined up today’s wine and thought about how to combine it with the food. Soon a wine importer is going to have a wine event at my restaurant, so it was preparation for that.
If you think about wine fragrance and which dishes it would match ahead of time, customers will have faith in you when you serve them. Also, if you seriously tell importers and manufacturers about good and bad opinions, they think, “I’m glad we did a wine event here.”