How do I hire staff?

I know, I know… I am always writing about staffing woes.  I’m sure the three readers of this blog are tired of reading about this topic, but I think it’s a reflection of what one of the biggest worries is when it comes to running a restaurant – you’ll always be worried about staffing.

Anyway, Standing Sushi Bar is expanding!  We’re heading to Orchard Road in late September and will be launching a new concept (so not called Standing Sushi Bar but something like xxxx by Standing Sushi Bar).  I’ll definitely be writing more about this later, but first… staffing!

Since I’m opening a new restaurant, I need to hire lots of people.  Service manager, chefs, service crew, bartenders, dishwasher, etc.  This is no easy task, and with the recent government changes, we are maxed out on our quota for foreigners.

I have put job ads out.  Current ones running are on JobStreet and Gumtree.  Certainly I will be putting more up in newspapers and other internet sites.  The JobStreet ad has been running since July 24 and the Gumtree ads I just put up this morning.

In each ad I state that the positions are for Singapore citizens and permanent residents only.

There have been 25 responses so far.  All are non-citizen and non-permanent resident foreigners from the Philippines and Myanmar.  There have been 0 responses from Singapore citizens or permanent residents.

This is what I state about pay and experience in the JobStreet ad:

“We pay based on experience, and we pay well to secure the right talent.
All levels are welcome!
Must be a Singapore citizen or permanent resident”

I also make it a requirement that the applicant speaks English fluently.  This might be limiting the people that apply.  I have no idea.

So, if you have any advice on how I can tweak my ad or how to find a Singapore citizen or permanent resident who would like to be part of this new concept, let me know!

I feel bad receiving CVs from all these foreigners, many who have great experience in F&B, but I can’t hire them.

Mother’s Day!

Hello to all the mothers out there and an even bigger hello to all the children that want to please their mothers!

For you all that are still wondering what kind of treat you can give your mother, how about a meal at Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street?  We have a special Mother’s Day set available for 35 SGD… and don’t worry if you can’t make it on Sunday, it will be available from May 13 – May 20 so you have a week to celebrate with your mother!

Standing Sushi Bar Mothers Day Set Meal Singapore

Mother’s Day Meal ($35) includes

  • Tempura Moriawase (assorted battered prawns and vegetables deep-fried)
  • Gindara Mentai (Grilled cod with lightly spicy cod roe)
  • Beef Carpaccio (seared beef)
  • Daikon Salad
  • Ice Cream
  • Rice
  • Miso Soup

Book online for 8 Queen Street or call 6333 1335 to reserve a space!

Omakase at 8 Queen Street!

Frequently after looking at a restaurant menu, I think, “Well, a bunch of the stuff looks good but I don’t really know what to pick.”  However I don’t to take the effort of narrowing down exactly what I’m going to eat.

And that’s where Omakase (chef’s choice!) comes in.

Omakase Standing Sushi Bar Singapore

You essentially leave it up to the chef to select what you’re going to eat.

At Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street we are introducing a basic omakase for 29 SGD.  It comes with 6 selections as well as rice, salad, and miso soup.  The chefs will be changing this on a weekly basis so the picture above is just an illustration.  Expect fish from our sushi bar, some items from our robatayaki counter, and then offerings from our kitchen.

Next time, leave it up to the chef!  Book a seat by calling 6333 1335 or reserving online.

May Update

Hello everyone!  It’s been awhile since I’ve written about what is going on with Standing Sushi Bar.  Aside from the entries about various promotions and menus that we are trying out I feel like I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about the other things that are happening.  I suppose a big reason for this is, like any small business, when the owner gets busy certain things go on hiatus.

On the personal front I left my career of 14 years – I used to be a… I don’t know, community manager, platform evangelist, software tester for Microsoft and now I’m focused on building my own business.  I thought there would be a month of having a good break but surprisingly opportunities came a-knocking and I’m working on a few different projects.  One of the hardest things is to focus!  Too many ideas, too little discipline to handle them all, and too many video games still to be played.

Indonesia

The first branch in Indonesia (Standing Sushi Bar at La Piazza) opened on January 15.  We’re in the midst of finding a location for the second branch.  Exciting!  It’s crazy to think of simply how much larger Indonesia (and Jakarta) is compared to the tiny confine of Singapore.  Certainly a prime location in Jakarta would be awesome but there are so many cities that are underserved by Japanese restaurants that the potential is great.  Factor in significantly lower costs for rent, wages, and setup and you can see why so many businesses are trying to move into the country.

nueve-ssb-25
Look ma! So much space at Standing Sushi Bar La Piazza!

Singapore

I don’t know whether I can credit our Monday promotion, feng shui, or some random thing I did on the internet (bookings through Chope? Loyalty built through Perx?)  but it’s as if folks have started stumbling into the 8 Queen Street restaurant.  Business is up significantly (I hope this doesn’t jinx anything!) so that’s definitely great, especially after a hard 2011.

Maybe it’s cause I yelled at the air-conditioning people and finally got them to fix it?  Hmm.

Over at Standing Sushi Bar Marina Bay Link Mall things have been chugging along nicely.  We introduced new dinner sets and that has helped bring in more customers outside of the Raffles Place lunch hour crowd.  I’ve been working on trying to get delivery started but it has been much harder than expected.  Short of building a web ordering platform from the ground up, most of the solutions out there are tailored for the US market.  There’s lots of room for growth over there (read: anything outside of lunch hours) and I’m excited about the upcoming opening of Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3… since it will bring in a ton of DBS Bank employees and it will be the biggest office tower in Singapore.  On the flip side it is also going to bring in more competition with something like 11+ new restaurants, including a food court.

Expansion

Grow, grow, grow!  I’m looking for new spaces to open Standing Sushi Bar in Singapore (and if anyone wants to talk about other countries, I’m open to it!).  I was keen on the upcoming UE Biz Hub but not keen enough to sign at the rent they wanted. I’m hesitant about the amount of office crowd at Changi Business Park that is willing to spend on lunch at a price point above $8.  With the opening of the Changi City Point mall and the upcoming UE Biz Hub, I feel like there will be a glut of restaurants all competing for the same type of customer… which is fine for an area like Raffles Place but possibly not for Changi Business Park.  It will be interesting to see how these malls evolve.

New Concept

In a “spin-off” to Standing Sushi Bar (can you spin a restaurant off like a sitcom?) I’ve been working on a new food concept.  I’ve almost settled on the first location for it, but since discussions with realtors and landlords can change at the drop of a hat, I can’t y where yet.  I’m excited but also nervous about how fast this one is moving along.

May should be an interesting month!

Tea Set at Marina Bay Link Mall

Raffles Place has a lot of quirks when it comes to having a restaurant there.  From 12 PM – 1:30 PM it’s a sea of people… literally foaming at the mouth, flowing through the hallway and flooding the restaurants in the area.  After 1:30 PM the people quickly recede back to their offices and it’s a slow drip until 6:00 PM when people start dropping in for dinner.

Since it’s the business district, people need tea breaks and places to hold chats; I figured we should offer a tea time special for the Raffles Place crowd that is looking for something different from the coffee and cakes.

Onigiri

3 Course Japanese Tea Set at Standing Sushi Bar Marina Bay Link Mall

Course 1 - Choice of: Salmon Skin Salad or Kani Avocado Salad
Course 2 - Choice of: Salmon Onigiri or Ebi Fry Handroll
Course 3 – Choice of: Furikake Onigiri or Salmon Skin Handroll

Price: 6 SGD
Available from 3 PM – 6 PM on weekdays

Back in time

Facebook is switching every company’s page to the “Timeline” version that it applies to individuals.  I’m actually a big fan of Timeline so I don’t mind the change that is coming.  I know there are many folks that have not taken to the Timeline view.  I wonder if it will somehow change the interaction between a business and Facebook users; I think Timeline’s design makes people want to share and engage more.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at the preview of Standing Sushi Bar’s timeline, and I flashed back to when we first opened.  Our manager (and my good friend) Coral posted this:

“Opening willl be fantastical! with dancing beauty queens and chefs that speak swiss german! Please if you must bring your children know that we do not have anywhere to put them.”

Standing Sushi Bar Japanese Restaurant in Singapore

Standing Sushi Bar at Raffles Place

I kind of miss that small spot!  I definitely don’t miss the rent.

Valentine’s Day Set Dinner

February 14 is just around the corner and that means love is in the air.  Cue romantic music and visions of roses, rings, and magical red hearts.  Not surprising that all of our reservations on Valentine’s night are for groups of 2.  With that in mind, we are offering a special Valentine’s Day meal at Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street and another set menu at Standing Sushi Bar Marina Bay Link Mall.

Book a table by calling +65 6333 1335 (8 Queen Street), +65 6634 7068 (Marina Bay) or mail eat@standingsushibar.com

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8 Queen Street - VALENTINE’S DAY “COUPLE’S SET” - $88 per couple

Appetizer

Three types of Japanese appetizers for each of you

Sashimi

Marbled, colorful raw fish… assorted slices of yellowtail, tuna and salmon sashimi along with creamy uni

Main Course

Gindara Ohba Yaki – two servings of grilled cod seasoned with Japanese ohba leaf, adding a lively mint flavor

Robatayaki

Two sticks of skewered beef with enoki mushrooms
Two sticks of grilled chicken wings

Soup

Dobin Mushi – Japanese teapot seafood soup for two

Sushi

Six pieces of sushi including shiro maguro, ikura gunkan, and akagai

Dessert

Three kinds of ice cream served with waffle

Marina Bay Link Mall – Valentine’s Menu (98 SGD per couple)

Mix Salad

Appetizers
2 kinds of Japanese appetizers to get the appetite working!

Sashimi
Assorted sashimi (4 kinds, 8 pieces)

Maki
Special Valentine’s Day sushi roll

Main Course
Wagyu Beef Steak
Salmon Butteryaki

Chawan Mushi
2 chawan mushi

Kake Udon
2 udon noodle soup to cleanse the palate

Dessert
2 kinds of ice cream

Back from Jakarta

Hello dear reader! (If there are any…) Hope you’re having a fine time easing into the weekend and getting ready for Chinese New Year.  I recently came back from Jakarta and wanted to share some experiences from the opening of the first international branch of Standing Sushi Bar.  It’s located in Jakarta at La Piazza Kelapa Gading.

Standing Sushi Bar JakartaSushi Bar Queue

The restaurant was scheduled to open on January 15, so I flew to Jakarta on January 13.  I wanted to familiarize myself with the area and see if there was anything I could help with prior to the opening. 

When I arrived, the restaurant looked like this…

Sushi Bar Jakarta Construction

Let’s say my first reaction was to ask, “So… are we really opening 2 days from now?  I notice there is no furniture…”

Shortly after that one of the air conditioning units malfunctioned and dumped water all over the floor.  That was exciting.

Well, there’s nothing a 24 hour construction cycle can’t accomplish and thankfully on opening day we had chairs, tables, and functioning air conditioners.  For a bit I thought we were going to have to revert to the original Standing Sushi Bar concept with no chairs!

I’m sure any restaurant owner has the same opening day worry – what if no one shows up?  I was doubly worried since we had done very little advertising of the restaurant in Jakarta.  The main things were the Facebook page, a tie-in with one retail shop, and a banner along the main street.

I guess when the main street is full of Jakarta traffic, that leads to a lot of eyeballs.

Kelapa Gading Circle Traffic

Which thankfully brought in a lot of people on opening day!

Popular Japanese restaurant JakartaJapanese food sushi Jakarta

The mall where we’re in is like an open air shopping plaza; though there are very few retail shops (you can find a ton in the adjoining mall called Mal Kelapa Gading) and instead it’s full of restaurants and cafes.  There is also a movie theater on the top floor.  One cool thing is that almost every night they have a live band playing on the outdoor stage.  From Standing Sushi Bar’s balcony seating area we get a good view.

La Piazza Plaza

Here’s a daytime view of La Piazza:

La Piazza stores

Plenty of places to get a caffeine fix – Starbucks, J. Co, and Black Canyon Coffee come to mind.  Since there was no internet access in the restaurant yet I was constantly buying coffee so I could use these cafes’ wireless internet.

I’m trying to learn more about the Jakarta sushi scene.  If anyone has any pointers or comments about Japanese restaurants there, let me know!

Until next time!

(Oh, and Standing Sushi Bar Singapore sent a little greeting to the folks in Jakarta)

Jakarta Sushi

Standing Sushi Bar Jakarta

A little background about myself – I grew up in the US, fell in love with computers (and sushi) at a young age, and spent years working for one of the best software companies in the world.  9 years ago I came to Singapore to further my career and since then have encountered many random and great opportunities, of which 2 years ago led me to start Standing Sushi Bar.

Tonight I’m sitting in Jakarta, Indonesia (one of those countries which most Americans are scared of), feeling too excited to sleep.  Six hours from now I’ll get dressed and head to La Piazza to witness the opening of Standing Sushi Bar’s newest branch.

I was thinking about how SSB now employs over 60 people.  When you consider how big a part of someone’s life their job is, and that they’re choosing to spend that time with this restaurant, it’s kind of cool.

Earlier I was at the site; everyone was rushing around to get everything set for the opening tomorrow.  Maybe it was the stress or the unfamiliarity of the environment but I was feeling tired and low-key.  My girlfriend and I sat on the balcony which overlooks the main plaza where a band was playing.  I think they were performing an Oasis song.

View from Standing Sushi Bar La Piazza

She said to me, “We’re in Jakarta because of the restaurant you created.”

---

Let’s eat some sushi, Indonesia!  I’m so happy to be here!

Standing Sushi Bar Indonesia team

Yusheng for Chinese New Year

Straight out of the winter holiday season we’re directly heading into Chinese New Year. The time for us to all get together and toss raw fish, salad, and other ingredients as high as we can. Lo Hei!

WP_000398 (2) 

This year we will be offering yusheng with your choice of salmon, tuna, or yellowtail (or a combination of the three).

Regular Size (9 slices) – 26.80 SGD
Large Size (18 slices) – 33.80 SGD
Additional sashimi (9 slices) – 10 SGD

To order please e-mail eat@standingsushibar.com or call the branch you would like to pickup your yusheng from.

8 Queen Street: 6333 1335
Marina Bay Link Mall: 6634 7068

Available from January 1 to February 6 with the exception of January 21 – 26 when we will be closed for Chinese New Year.

So how is that Monday promotion working out?

We have run the 2 SGD Monday promotion for 2 weeks now, and for those of you who come to this blog to see a little “behind the scenes” action, I figured I would let you know how the promotion is going and why I decided to hold it.

It’s no secret in the food and beverage industry that the first half of the week is notoriously slow.  At 8 Queen Street our Monday lunches tend to be popular but dinner is quiet.  I’ve been thinking about how to convince people to come to the restaurant on a Monday night, increase the awareness of Standing Sushi Bar, and spur some of the alcohol sales.

For awhile I was fixated on the idea of 1 SGD oysters.  Personally I love raw oysters and I’ve been to a couple restaurants (notably Cocotte and Seafood Paradise at the Flyer) that were running 1 SGD oyster promotions to draw in a crowd.

Alas I wasn’t able to find an oyster supplier that made it feasible to offer 1 SGD oysters.  Now I realize why these other restaurants had strict rules and only a limited time for the promotion.  At a buck an oyster the loss per oyster is pretty high.

Oh, in case you’re not sure why a restaurant would have such a promotion it’s to get people in the door and then make up for the loss on the promotional item by encouraging the customers to order other non-promotion items.

I shouldn’t have fixated so much on oysters and it was an obvious face-slap moment when I realized that instead of looking for oysters why not just use one of our existing items for the promotion? I thought about which item; admittedly I was a little worried about using salmon sashimi since it’s one of our most popular items, why offer it at such a promotional price?

I decided that instead of being tentative, we should dive in and really aim for giving the customer what they would want.  I tried to put myself in the customer mindset – would 2 dollar salmon sashimi and 1 dollar sake be something I would make a trip for?  Yes!  (Sidenote – I think it’s getting harder and harder to view things through the lens of the customer versus that of a restaurant owner).

To the results!  Definitely exceeded my expectations… of course we’ve only had two Mondays with the promotion so far so we’ll see how it evolves, but currently it’s boosted the sales by 55% compared to the average of previous Mondays.  Guest feedback has been positive, so all in all I think this has worked out well.

Now to brainstorm what we should offer on Tuesdays…

2 Dollar Mondays: Super Promotion!

One of the fun things as a restaurant owner is that you get to do what you want to do.  And what I feel like doing right now at 2 in the morning is creating a mega super amazing unbeatable best Japanese food promotion for the most dreaded day of the week.  Monday.

Salmon Sashimi

  • Salmon Sashimi (5 slices) – 2 SGD
  • Glass of Wine, Plum Wine, Hot Sake, or Asahi Beer – 5 SGD
  • Glass of Sake – 1 SGD

So come celebrate $2 Mondays with us every Monday night from 6 PM – 10 PM at Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street and Marina Bay Link Mall (9 PM close at Marina Bay).  Reserve a spot by e-mailing eat@standingsushibar.com or calling +65 6333 1335 (8 Queen Street) and +65 6634 7068 (Marina Bay Link Mall)!

Not valid with other promotions, vouchers, or discounts

*Updated on April 11, 2012 – due to the overwhelming popularity of this promotion and the fact that we make a loss on each salmon sashimi, we need to increase the price to 3 SGD for the salmon sashimi… which is still crazy, crazy, crazy!

Party platter for the holidays

“Just hear the sleigh bells jingling,
Ring ting tingling too
Come on it’s lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you”

Ah, the winter holiday season is upon us and that means people are gearing up for parties, Secret Santas, and toffee nut lattes from Starbucks!

Many of you will have gatherings over the next few weeks.  Include sushi in your celebration with friends and family!  Standing Sushi Bar is running a promotion, 20% off the regular price of our party platters when placing an order 24 hours in advance.

Check out our platters and order now!

Quality Control Team

Terror and Sumo

Meet the quality control team from Standing Sushi Bar. Terror and Sumo declare the fish A-OK! Currently perched on one of our sushi cases in storage.

Night Festival 2011

Voyage Night Festival 2011 is taking place this weekend in the Bras Basah area. It’s a collection of exhibits, performances, and installations being held on the museum grounds as well as the SMU campus.  I believe admission to the museums (SAM at 8Q, Singapore Art Museum, National Museum, Peranakan Museum) are free during this period.

Standing Sushi Bar at 8QSAM will also be open until midnight on August 26 and 27 as well as September 2 and 3.  Come get a little culture!

Lamination

Ah, restaurant ownership… the picture in people’s heads is of a proprietor, mingling with guests, flitting from table to table and asking them how the food was while dazzling them with a charming anecdote or two about funny customers.

The reality is crouching on the floor at 1:30 in the morning stuffing A4-size paper into sticky plastic pouches to shove through the laminating machine.  Is it just me or is inserting paper into these pouches one of the most frustrating things to do? You stick it in and the corner of the paper juts out which means you have to peel the pouch cover back and try placing the paper again.

Well, at least I have 30 copies of the set menu for Standing Sushi Bar Marina Bay Link Mall laminated now.

Standing Sushi Bar in the blogosphere

I use blogsearch.google.com to keep on top of what folks are saying about Standing Sushi Bar.  It’s a great tool to find out what people are thinking and how their experience at the restaurant was.  Plus it’s simple to use; I just type in “Standing Sushi Bar” (including the quotes) and if anyone has written about the restaurant, I’ll see it.  Plus they include a date filter so I can see which our the newest entries.

Here are some recent reviews:

Sparklette – “Standing Sushi Bar‘s high quality, fresh and affordable Japanese food has stood the test of time, the standard remaining consistent over repeat visits to the different outlets.”

爱makan – “Attentive and prompt service, easeful atmosphere, economical sets menu and gratifying grubs. Tell me who in the right mind won’t be back for more?”

My World – “If you are looking for somewhere to eat fantasticly fresh seafood, this is the place to go.”

Blurting – “We also ordered fried Yakiudon which was one of the best I've ever had… just when I thought dinner was over, a mixed sushi platter was served. The sushi was good - fresh fish with small amount of rice underneath. The California roll was delicious.”

Alcohol + Free Food = Winning!

Well hey, look at that, I have a bar now.  Stocked with beer, sake, shochu, umeshu, and whisky!  I just so happen to have a big kitchen to go with it.

  • Purchase 3 bottles of any beer or a 300ml bottle of sake ($25) and receive tori karaage (worth $10) and edamame ($4) free! Must order all 3 beers at once but don't worry, we'll keep them cold for you.
  • Purchase any bottle of alcohol between $60 - $95 and receive ebi tempura maki ($12) and edamame ($4) free!
  • Purchase any bottle of alcohol between $100 - $175 and receive an assorted sushi platter (7 nigiri, 2 maki, worth $25) and edamame ($4) free!
  • Purchase any bottle of alcohol from $180 onwards and receive a matsu sashimi platter (7 types of sashimi with 14 slices, worth $45), ebi tempura maki ($12), and edamame ($4) for free!

Promotion valid only for dine-in at Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street and can not be used in conjunction with other promotions. Promotion not applicable to sake sampler and whisky sampler.

Valid during all operating hours.

Umeshu

Happy drinking and eating!

Hiring sushi chefs and bar staff

Hi all, Standing Sushi Bar is looking for sushi chefs and bar staff.

Sushi Chef: Minimum 1 year of experience, adaptable, and looking to learn from experienced chefs.  Need to be able to work well under pressure and in a fast-paced environment.  Must speak English.

Bar staff: Articulate, sociable, and trustworthy.  Willing to work late (midnight+). No previous experience necessary.  Must be fluent in English.

Salaries are dependent on experience

If interested please send your CV to eat@standingsushibar.com

Please note these positions are open only to Singapore citizens and permanent residents.  We don’t have quota for work permit / s pass at the moment.

It pays to be kind

I admit I’m addicted to the Singapore Seen section on Stomp. While they bill it as a lofty site for citizen journalism, it has turned into a portal showing the ugly side of us all living together on this tiny island.

Public transportation woes, maid troubles, anti-foreigner diatribes, aaaggghhh!

Is this country really debating whether an able-bodied person should let an elderly or pregnant commuter take the priority seat on public transportation?  Isn’t the answer obviously “OF COURSE?”

The government has run campaigns to encourage kindness and graciousness. I’m not sure what the results have been, but it seems many folks are motivated to take action only if there is a concrete payoff.

So us here at Standing Sushi Bar are taking our sushi sensibilities and wading into the teeming, seething mass that is the Singapore public.  Our goal?  Encourage people to be kind – it will make Singapore more pleasant for all!

Do good with Standing Sushi Bar

We’re sending our ninjas out across the streets, trains, and buses of Singapore.  Armed with these kindness cards, if they see you doing something nice then you get free sushi!  Give up your seat on the MRT, hold the elevator door open, pick up some litter… no act of kindness is too small.

At Standing Sushi Bar, it pays to be kind.