Mai Sushi is the most recent brand developed by The Peace Dining Corp, a restaurant group based out of Philadelphia, PA. Genji at its core is as entrepreneurial of a restaurant brand as it gets. A family-owned sushi restaurant in Philadelphia named after a Japanese novel character had developed a reputation for great sushi and using all-natural, high-quality ingredients.
When Whole Foods came to market, the giant premium grocer was in search of a strategic partner to manage the small sushi counter operations located within the grocery stores. Genji was selected as the partner and as they say, the rest is history. Today, Genji operates over 200 sushi kiosk locations in Whole Foods stores and has developed into an International food service organization.
As the business expanded, the opportunity to develop traditional restaurant locations and expand the brand recognition beyond the Whole Foods partnership also became evident. Mai Sushi was developed in order to leverage the systems, logistics model and high-quality sushi menu Genji had become so successful with outside of the grocery store sushi kiosk model.
In 2014, Peace Dining Corp hired Franchise Marketing Systems to develop the franchise strategy for Mai Sushi and conduct the franchise feasibility study related to how this transition to the franchise model would work for Genji. Franchise Marketing Systems developed the market study used to analyze the sushi market and understand how to franchise a sushi model effectively.
The data and reporting were then used to coordinate a go-to-market plan for the sushi franchise model. Franchise Marketing Systems developed the operations manuals, franchise training programs and franchise marketing strategy for the sushi franchise. The Mai Sushi franchise marketing and sales model were then organized and structured in order to effectively take the brand to market and locate qualified franchise investors.
The Mai Sushi brand had significant advantages when compared to an early-stage franchise launch in that the organization could leverage significant existing resources. A state-of-the-art commissary kitchen operation in New York, over 900 sushi chefs in the corporate operation, a logistics and supply network and a leadership team with vast experience in the food services business all were in place.
What created unique obstacles to growth were transitional changes related to the new operating model. Although Genji had amazing success and a track record behind it, the organization had not operated traditional sushi restaurants in traditional retail locations, they had always relied on the strategic advantage of high-traffic Whole Foods store kiosks.
Second, the Genji brand carried weight and market positioning, where Mai Sushi was a new presentation to the market. There would be a need for marketing, branding and media to support the new expansion approach.
Through the franchise development process, the appropriate strategy was developed to navigate the transition to Mai Sushi. A real estate plan was developed which incorporated a clear understanding with very specific guidelines as to what an ideal location would be for the sushi franchise.
Commercial Real Estate teams and resources were introduced to the brand and helped in finding ideal spaces and locations. These resources understood the guidelines of the plan and acted as extensions of the franchise organization. The business model build-out, furniture, fixtures and equipment and construction were organized to emphasize simplicity and make the development of new locations as simple and structured as possible.
Consistency would be critical in all phases of the development model. Genji had been so successful as a brand in 200 locations because of the organization’s commitment to consistent customer experience, food quality and premium products. Mai would be no different in that the vehicle to deliver the experience to the customer was different, but it only allowed for more potential to deliver the experience, not less than the original Genji model. A colour scheme, design, music and store layout were developed that exhibited core brand traits and made for an amazing customer experience.
Together, Mai Sushi with the Genji infrastructure is positioned to take a leadership position in the sushi franchise market segment nationally and globally. The franchise model allows the sushi model to scale quickly with independent ownership, investment from franchisees and a structured business model for new markets.
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