CO: HAPA SUSHI GRILL AND SAKE BAR + MOTOMAKI
Mark Van Grack has an eye for opportunity. When he was a successful fashion purveyor, his shoes and clothing were carried by major national retailers and featured in music videos and television shows.
After moving to Colorado, Van Grack spotted opportunity in commercial foodservice. “My background in fashion gave me the ability to see future trends,” he says. “I saw that sushi was at the tipping point of becoming big.”
His insight led to Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar, a four-unit, full-service operation featuring Japanese-Hawaiian fusion fare and Motomaki, a three-unit, fast-casual sushi operation.
What are some of the biggest challenges operators face today?
MVG: As labor and food costs rise, they’ll be passed on through menu pricing. This will increase guests’ expectations, which we will continue to meet.
How do you mitigate rising labor costs?
MVG: Rising labor costs are a part of doing business. Cutting our labor force would sacrifice quality and service. We have always paid, and will continue to pay, our staff their value.
How do you try to combat food-cost challenges?
MVG: We rely on Shamrock Foods for help with strategies such as menu costing and labor-saving ingredients.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
MVG: We combine traditional and nontraditional styles to create a unique concept that sets us apart from other sushi restaurants. We consistently use only the freshest, highest-quality fish and food products available.
How do you stay inspired?
MVG: By giving our staff the independence and flexibility to be creative and have input. We encourage them to develop weekly specials using new ingredients and innovative approaches.
Any trends you’re implementing or planning to implement?
MVG: Japanese whiskey; plant-based proteins; and Ube, a purple potato served as a starch and dessert.
How do you introduce new items to your menu?
MVG: Weekly specials which, based on customer feedback, are added to our menu seasonally.
What opportunities and challenges are unique to full-service and fast-casual operations?
MVG: Quality and customer experience are of utmost importance at both.
For today’s more sophisticated, health-oriented consumer, Motomaki provides options beyond traditional fast-casual offerings. We’ve developed profitable delivery systems at our full-service and fast-casual restaurants to accommodate this fast-growing aspect.
Have you shifted strategies lately?
MVG: Yes, because takeout and delivery are a much greater percentage of our sales.
How do you ensure a high level of hospitality via takeout?
MVG: Really paying attention to all the details. Making sure that every order is correct and has enough condiments.
What changes did you make to help with profitability?
MVG: Being way more efficient with labor.
Which changes do you think will stick?
MVG: I believe the extended patios will become permanent.
What Shamrock Foods Brings to the Table
MVG: We have a strong Shamrock Foods team that communicates well. In addition, the Shamrock Rewards program trips give us a chance to network. Shamrock Foods has always shared something that’s very relevant to making us better.
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