Reflecting on my career in business I have realized there are a few key ingredients to any successful business whether we are talking about restaurants or any other industry. A few of these key ingredients for success include:
- The founder must have a passion for the business. In the restaurant industry, you must be passionate about the food you are producing. This will lead you to always do the right thing, and that passion, will transfer to others and they will in turn pass it on.
- Perseverance – business in tough. You have to be able to weather the ups and downs and continue on because you believe in the business, the product/service and yourself.
- Attention to detail. When something is out of place or not right, it should bother the owner such that they think far ahead to try to avoid things going wrong. Anticipate. They should put themselves in the customer’s shoes and make sure that every aspect of the experience is such that the customer has as perfect an experience as possible.
- Not being comfortable and maintaining a certain sense of “paranoia”. For example, if you are constantly worried about your competitors, you will constantly innovate your product to stay one step ahead.
Aside from the above, there are things like having a great story. Once all things are in place, then the probability of success is increased.
While researching places to have sushi in London, Kiku seemed to check a lot of the boxes above based on their website. For example, STORY: it claims to be the oldest family-run Japanese in London, having been established in 1978. PASSION: the website claimed to hand-pick quality ingredients daily with chefs traditionally trained in Japan. I love eating at places with a great story.
Based on the research and reviews, I decided to give it a try. Upon entry the place seemed to be traditional Japanese:
There were various menus which had some red flags for me for a Japanese restaurant. First, the menu was huge and lacked focus on a particular aspect of Japanese cuisine. Next, they had non-traditional items on the menu, or what I like to call “funny rolls”. All of this is fine, but it needs to be consistent with the image a restaurant is trying to project. If a restaurant says they are a traditional place, then the experience, food, etc, should reflect that. Here was part of the sushi menu.
Service was another issue. We were not offered water or tea for a long time after being seated and only when we asked for it. The tea was not very good and definitely not a quality green tea. The first dish we got was the tempura which was very doughy.
The rest of the dishes were just average.
For the sushi, the ratio of rice to fish was off (too much rice). While the food was not bad, it was not great for the price. Usually, I dont mention prices in my blog unless something is way off. I believe you can have an amazing Michelin starred meal worth every penny, and you can also have an amazing fast food meal for very little money. What is consistent between the two is that the prices match the experience and the restaurants dont try to be something they are not.
Where things go wrong is in the middle or with places that project one image, and then don’t deliver. This is one such place. What I believe has happened is that they have lost passion for what they are doing and got too comfortable (40 year history etc).
For example, a passionate sushi restaurant will proudly tell you on the menu where each piece of seafood comes from whether its Santa Barbara uni or Hokkaido scallops. Especially at this prices point (the above menu is in British Pounds). This passion is missing here.
Overall, the service and food were not great. I would not return.