If it’s ever gonna get any better…

June 2, 2009 at 2:45 am 5 comments

“Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!“ – Lost in Space

I am in trouble.  The standing sushi bar is in serious trouble.  To amuse myself, and to stop from collapsing under the stress, I’m going to analyze the situation using lyrics from Bishop Allen’s song “Rain.”

“Drowning, everything is drowning”

Interior designer, renovation contractor, mechanical & electrical engineer, kitchen equipment and design consultant, quantity surveyor, branding agency, packaging supplier, fish suppliers, vegetable suppliers, restaurant and hospitality suppliers, landlord operations manager, landlord marketing manager, law firm, accountant, god-knows-who-else

I’m tired. I’m tired that every interaction with these people is a battle. Stop price-gouging me. Stop giving me initial quotes that are insulting. I know I’m new to the F&B industry, I know I look young, I know I speak with a foreign accent, but seriously… the combination of outrageous estimates along with nickel & diming every small expense is getting to me.

I’m not haggling in a Thai street market. Or at least I didn’t think I was.

Based on these early price quotations, my initial estimates for what it would cost to start the standing sushi bar have been blown to smithereens. This is a problem. The partners and I have committed a certain amount which we used to split the ownership-percentage. Now we need to figure out what the terms are for any new money that is invested. Do we dilute our own shares? Sell the shares that we are holding open for employees? Loan money to the company and pay interest? Or an even simpler concern, what if we can’t or don’t want to put in more money?

(And for those of you wondering if walking away from this is an option, it’s not. At least not a feasible one… 3 months’ rent as a security deposit was already provided to OUB Centre)

“Bed clothes, why am I in bed clothes?
Watching out the window
Watching what I don’t know“

I can’t blame others for all the problems. One of the contractors called me out directly on this: “How long have you had the lease?” “Why are you only contacting me now?”

What can I say?  I don’t know. I thought I had plenty of time and then all of a sudden, I didn’t.

A little work here, a little work there… got some recommendations, some names of people to contact; secured a chef… felt like I was making progress.  I think I prioritized the things I understood and put off what I was unfamiliar with. Always that voice in the back of the head saying, “Eh, you’ll get around to doing the research.” Of course there was another voice screaming at me, “MOVE FASTER. YOU MUST DO THIS. WHY AREN’T YOU DOING THIS?” That latter voice was drowned out by alcohol and my daytime / full-time corporate job.

“Hands they start to shake now
Ready for the rail to break now
And I’m awake at last awake”

Did I mess up?  Yes.  Do I realize it?  Yes.  Standing Sushi Bar is on the verge of missing its opening date by a mile.  That would result in paying rent and staff salaries with no money coming in.

Is this an untenable situation?  Certainly not!  Aside from the question of how much more money to inject, the timeline for opening in mid-July can still be met.  I have 20 days to confirm the interior design, kitchen equipment, and the contractors that will do the renovation.  If I miss the June 22 deadline, the opening day will slip.

“Cursing, rattling and cursing
Go ahead and do your worst then
Your worst that I can take”

So I’m angry.  At myself, at others, at the situation.  I’m a boring person these days; this sushi bar is all I can think about.

There is a positive side.  This is all a new experience for me.  Dealing with contractors, making the final decisions, learning about the infinite small considerations that go into starting a food & beverage business… it’s a great learning opportunity.

Today, as I dealt with a key contact lying to me, I thought about how my reaction differed from what would happen if the same situation came up at my regular job.  I would be annoyed, but shrug it off and use a soft-approach to chastise them.  “You’re delaying our project, your team members are depending on you, you don’t want to create a reputation for this, right?”  Same situation for the sushi bar triggered the desire to yell, “Why are you lying to me?  You are costing me money and time, and now you owe me.  I hope someone punches you in the throat, jackass.”  (I did not act on this desire).

“Cause if it’s ever gonna get any better
It’s gotta get worse for a day”


Acoustic version of Bishop Allen’s “Rain” from They Shoot Music – a very cool project highlighting Vienna through music and art performances.


Entry filed under: Starting-up.

Just one word… Plastics New Shops Opening! (or so it says)

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Niniane  |  June 2, 2009 at 4:02 am

    Good luck Howard 🙂

  • 2. unclevinny  |  June 2, 2009 at 6:09 am

    Yikes!!! This is one of the many reasons I’ve never considered starting a restaurant, even though folks in my family have started several of them… I just can’t stand the pressure.

    Keep your chin up, my friend. I’m pulling for you from ‘way over in Seattle. 🙂

  • 3. unclevinny  |  June 2, 2009 at 6:11 am

    PS: I think it’s terrific that you’re being so honest about the things you’re running into while getting this off the ground. A lot of entrepreneurs want to make it look like everything was easy and perfect for them…

  • 4. stand4sushi  |  June 3, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    @niniane Thank you! And good luck with your start-up venture as well. 🙂

    @unclevinny Did I mention that before Singapore I spent 5 years in Seattle? Capitol Hill area. I miss the burgers from Six Arms and the cheap but cheerful kinda-Asian food at Ballet restaurant. Thanks for the words of encouragment!

    It’s interesting the difference a day makes. When I wrote this entry I was very worried; the following day I started the discussion with my partners about additional funding, I met with a Point-of-Sale representative to check out a system I could use, and basically I felt much better after plowing forward. I suppose it was good I allowed a bit of wallowing and now I can charge forward some more.

  • 5. Uncle Vinny  |  June 9, 2009 at 2:15 am

    Oh yes, I’m not above a bit of wallowing myself from time to time. Glad to hear things are going a bit better. Full steam ahead!


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Standing Sushi Bar

Join us at our branches in Singapore's fast-paced Raffles Place business district or unwind in our flagship branch located in the Bras Basah Arts & Historic neighborhood. High-quality, healthy, affordable dining. Open at Marina Bay Link Mall and 8 Queen Street!



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