There are at least five sushi places on our street we can walk to in under five minutes, as unsurprising as that may be for Vancouver. What is surprising is that we love sushi and we rarely visit them. Why?
Our lack of business is probably not hurting them but then I wonder who else is doing the exact same thing? Are they merely surviving because demand is really that high? We’ve seen sushi joints come and go multiple times at the nearest location. Clearly, demand is not the only thing keeping them afloat.
The place we most enjoy is about a five to ten minute drive away down the hill. The other day we went all the way to Commercial Drive to revisit one of our old time favourites rather than the place next door. Yes, we feel their food is superior but there are broader reasons why we make these treks.
These places offer a unique experience.
Sushimoto on Lougheed has awesome graphics on their tea cups and collector's items decorate the space. Diners at the bar can view collectable action figures that sit behind plexi. In general all of their sushi is delicious, but for us we order the seared salmon nearly every time. This particular item we do not often see on other menus. More so, their special rolls are their own. You can’t get something quite like it elsewhere.
What they have done is taken their unique personality and combined it with a unique menu. They are creating food they enjoy making and the flavour of that pride comes through.
We revisited Ginger Sushi on Commercial Drive because we love the ambiance. It is a small restaurant where regulars leave their chopsticks labelled on the wall. There are about five tables in a space that is less than 400sqft but it doesn’t feel cramped. It is cozy and intimate. The chef goes to great lengths to create art from items like the caterpillar roll.
Now if only either of them had a website for you to get a taste of the experience before arriving…
This is starting to sound like a review. The reason I bring these two particular restaurants up is because the experience stuck. Have you tried Sushi Nanaimo? We went when it opened and the food is actually pretty good but all I really remember is that it was very loud and busy. We haven’t been back in over a year.
Okay, so here’s the scoop, you’re going to need a unique selling point. You’ve got one. It’s a matter of highlighting and embracing it. Sushimoto and Ginger Sushi have. It's the reason I've remembered and mentioned them.
Vancouverites love to try every new place that opens, but if you want repeat business you’ve got to become sticky. If word of mouth is a main driver, try to make those words enticing. Arm your current customers with a unique experience worth talking about. Don’t just be the sushi place on the corner of wherever.
You can leverage what you’ve already got. We talk about focussing your brand promise and this is yet another example of where that applies. It’s fairly well known that many sushi places are not run by Japanese people. What if they owned their heritage and created dishes influenced by it in obvious impactful ways.
Go all in on whatever makes your business unique. By being bold and owning it, you can market it that way. Your logo can be stronger knowing this purpose. Your menus can be tailored to match. It is not a restriction. It is a direction.
For a very different example, there are quite a few gelato and ice cream places popping up all over the city. One that is really starting to stick out, is Nice Vice. They offer vegan ice cream made from a sweet potato base. I haven’t been yet, but 100% intend to. I know their promise is a sweet delicious treat sans dairy or egg that the difference will be indistinguishable. Being so unique has allowed me instant recall of their business without ever being.
What I want you to ask yourself is, “What does my business stand for? What is it about the product and experience that makes it unique?” Capitalize on it. Don’t be afraid to target a niche. The niche will find you and it could be much larger than you imagine. Kissa Tanto comes to mind being Japanese-Italian fusion and celebrating great success.
Every business is inherently unique because we are as people running it. How will you leverage it and amplify it?