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Sushi Express on turbo drive to productivity

Customers can get a quick, fuss-free and fresh sushi meal in as short a time as possible.

AT Sushi Express, there is a need for speed. All the processes in the sushi chain are geared towards helping customers get a quick, fuss-free and fresh sushi meal in as short at time as possible.

There is no menu for customers to ponder over. The restaurants only sell sushi - there is no gyoza, or tempura or bento sets that other sushi joints regularly offer.

And at Sushi Express, which sells every plate of sushi for S$1.50, there is only the conveyor belt and no wait staff. Customers simply pick their plates from the ever-revolving conveyor belt. Also, you have to eat your meals pretty quickly - most restaurants allow you to sit at your table for only 50 minutes.

If it sounds like a bad dining experience, it is not. Visit any of the 12 outlets around Singapore during peak hours, and chances are that there will be long queues of customers waiting to eat.

The key to its growth is in paying attention to the small details, said Nathaniel Kwek, chief executive officer of Sushi Express Singapore. The goal is churn out high volumes of sales to compensate for the very thin margins. "Customers want to sit down, take plates of sushi and go. No fuss, just cheap, good and healthy meals," said Mr Kwek.

Productivity, in this regard, has been crucial to its success. The company is always on the lookout for machines to reduce its reliance on manpower and free up its staff to do higher value tasks in the restaurants.

For instance, it has a machine that helps make maki called a Norimaki Robot machine. It also bought a maki cutter, which cuts the maki that the Norimaki Robot makes. Three staff were previously required to make 72 maki products. But with the machines, the company now just deploys one person to generate 120 to 130 maki products.

Every outlet also has a dishwashing machine, which takes just one man to manage and operate.

"This is a mature market for Japanese food. We have got to differentiate, and we are able to do this by giving customers what they want at a reasonable price," said Mr Kwek.

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