A New Way to Serve: Omakase on the Go, a Cool Idea for Surviving the Crisis! Prepare Omakase Sushi Right at the Customers’ Front Steps

Sep 13, 2021
Whether you’re a small or premium restaurant, the Covid-19 crisis has affected everyone. They have to find ways to adapt just the same. Since restaurateurs have to do everything to help their restaurants survive, we’ve seen some very cool and unique ideas. Some restaurants have not only recovered their business, but they’ve also admirably maintained their uniqueness which is the heart of their restaurant.

The same goes for a famous premium omakase sushi restaurant like Chef Chaichat ‘Randy’ Noprapa’s ‘Fillets’ which has moved the omakase kitchen to serve umami flavors right up to its customers’ front steps. It caters to Japanese-food lovers by making food to taste just as delicious as if they were eating it at the restaurant. Let’s take a look at this interesting and extraordinary idea.
Chef Chaichat “Randy” Noprapa, founder of ‘Fillets’, a famous omakase sushi restaurant.

One of Thailand’s First Famous Japanese Cuisine and Omakase Restaurants

“Our restaurant opened about almost ten years ago when there weren’t so many omakase places in Thailand. I’d just return from being abroad. Both my partner and I recognized that our domestic market was probably ready for omakase-style sushi. It's a ‘chef’s choice’ style of serving and the chef will choose the best meal to serve to the customers. That’s how Fillets came to be one of Thailand’s first omakase restaurants. Later, many new omakase restaurants opened.”

When You’re Affected by Covid, You Have to Eliminate the ‘Unnecessary’ and Preserve the ‘Core’ of Your Restaurant

“We were seriously affected by Covid because, after being open for 7-8 years rather successfully, we started to expand. We opened a bar zone and an à la carte zone and became a large restaurant with about 140 seats capacity. As a result, we had a rather high monthly expense. We had over 20 employees. After the first wave of Covid, our customers started disappearing because people needed to be socially distanced. The first thing we did was scale down and restructure our restaurant to be consistent with the situation,

Fortunately, our rental agreement for the space behind our garden was expiring, so we decided to move back to a smaller space. We decided eliminate anything we considered unnecessary.  So, the à la carte and bar zones were eliminated. Only the omakase, which is the core of our restaurant, was kept. After that part was adapted into ‘Mini Me by Fillets’ and we were serving omakase to only ten seats per round, an advantage was that we could focus on what we did best, so our performance improved. In regard to the food and service, we were much more meticulous.”

Survive the Crisis Using Strategies from Delivery to Fillets Go Omakase Food Truck

After the spread of Covid-19 made over 60% of his customers disappear, Chef Randy said that, other than deciding to down-scaling his restaurant model, he also reinforced his business with new ideas. Of course, one of those ideas is delivery, which is the method for survival for most restaurants. The next idea was a food truck that mobilized the deliciousness and made the sushi right on the customers’ front steps.

Create Series of Delivery Menu Items That Can Be Heated, Is Safe and Feels Like They Were Freshly Cooked

“At first, when the government ordered the closure of storefront services during the first wave, we started making deliveries by adjusting our restaurant’s menu. After we started doing that, we felt that it wasn’t as well received as we’d hoped. It was because people were afraid of Covid. They didn’t dare to eat raw fish. Since our existing recipes weren’t very suitable for selling as take-away, we finally changed our recipes. Once the third wave hit, we started making D-Pot donburi which is hot. We cooked it only 80%, and when we got to the customers’ houses, they’d cook it another 20%. It’s like eating freshly cooked food at the restaurant. It’s a solution to the fear of eating raw food. In addition, we created a series of dishes like the kamameshi series or donburi series, so the customers don’t get bored and can comfortably choose to eat what they want.”

Delivery Getting the Food Truck Idea from Noodle Carts; Sushi Prepared in Front Customers’ Houses Tastes Better than Delivery Food

“Actually, our restaurant offers a service called ‘Omakase at Home’. We have chefs making omakase for customers at their home. However, with the increasingly severe Covid situation, I think it’s probably not the best service for this kind of situation because we’re afraid of our customers and they’re afraid of us. Most importantly, we shouldn’t risk ourselves and our employees like that. So, we’ve decided that it’s better to suspend this service and focus on something that’s sure and helps reduce the risk.”

“What’s been our solution that really works is our Fillets Go food truck. When I was a kid, I liked to eat noodles from noodle carts. Have you ever noticed that when you order noodles to eat at home, it’s never as good as when you eat at the restaurant?  Why is it that when a noodle cart makes bamee on site, it’s good? So, I thought that if we drove a food truck, park it in front of a customer’s house, make the sushi and hand it to them to eat inside the house, it’d probably be better in that customers could eat good food and we’d both be safe. That’s why we started to refurbish my partner’s old truck. Right after we finished refurbishing the truck, the first wave of Covid was over, so we didn’t use it. We only took it out for this third wave, 

We’re the only one in the market to do this. We’ve received very positive response. Our reservations are full for about the next two weeks. When I came up with the idea, I never thought it would be this well received. At first, we thought we’d just be able to run our business and keep all of our employees so that everyone would have an income. The next thing I thought about was how to keep our customers.  As it turns out, however, we are so well received that we’re making the same amount of income as when we were selling from our storefront.”
Fillets GO! The omakase food truck that travels to prepare sushi and deliver delicious flavor to customers’ front steps.

How to Run an Omakase Food Truck?

Prioritize to communication because since the truck has to go on the road, anything could happen, for example, traffic, rain and the truck breaking down. The restaurant and admin have to always be ready to communicate. When we’re travelling to the customer, we have to notify them about how long the trip should take. If there are any delays, we’d have to notify the customer immediately.
● Select the right ingredients and menu items because a food truck has limited storage space. For Fillets, which offers omakase sushi, we emphasize a fair number of menu items that uses aging and pickling processes because it helps in the way of food preservation, so it’s safe to eat.
Once you get to the customer’s house, disinfect the truck again. Then the staff will prepare the personal protective equipment and then start preparing the sushi, put it on a plate and hand it over to the customer. There will be absolutely no direct physical contact between the staff and the customer.
● The restaurants safety standard must be very good and you need to communicate that to the customers because during Covid there will still be customers who are afraid of being infected from eating raw fish. Fillets has our employees tested regularly. The ATK alone are tested twice a week. Moreover, we have behind-the-scenes measures. For example, our employees are to report to us on who they meet each day, so we can assess the daily risks.
● Distribute the risk by rotating your teams. Fillets’ food truck teams are divided into three teams. The teams rotate and never see each other at all. If one of the teams is infected, the other teams are still able to provide our services.
● Get your truck inspected regularly, because problems may ensue if the truck isn’t always ready. For example, the truck could break down on a customer’s big day, which could really cause some damage. If the truck is really broken down, you might need emergency numbers for calling a tow truck to tow your truck to the customer’s house or meeting point because you don’t want to disappoint your customer.

Strategies and Situation Assessment Are Crucial

“As for business operation during this crisis, I think it’s like playing poker.  Strategies and know how to assess situations are essential. For example, you first need to assess your capacity and how much you can take. Can you wait? Do you have to do this or that right now? Having a fighting spirit is good, but being uncompromising may cause some damage. I think what’s important in this situation is you have to be smart about it. If you have some expenses, can you really make the money back? Because this is not the time for trial and error or taking chances. Now is the time when you have to be really sure.

Only do it after you’re sure you can and should do it. Take me for example, I own many restaurants, but had to close some of them because I wasn’t sure if they could survive in this situation. It was better if I saved the money I had. At least when everything is over, I’d still have the money to start something new. It’s better than fighting and having your money disappear.  What’s more, you might create more debt for yourself.”

“Listening for news and information is also very important, because how well you can adjust depends on the information you have. Most importantly, don’t think only about what you want. On the other hand, listen to your customers. Find out what they really need. Make that your challenge and think about the solution. In my opinion, what customers value most right now is safety. We try to make that our challenge and we implement it in the measures for our restaurant and employees as well as the service we provide from our food truck when we prepare sushi for customers at their homes and ensure them that they’re eating safe food.”
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