John Riley Project

John Riley Project

Bob Pasela, Sabuku Sushi, JRP0043

April 12, 2019

It was an ordinary day when Zeke and
I stepped into Sabuku Sushi to have lunch and discuss business.  We were not prepared with who we
encountered.  Sabuku Sushi owner Bob
Pasela greeted us at our table with a surge of energy and enthusiasm.  He showcased his menu, his creative
innovations in sushi, his tablet ordering technology and his entire
restaurant.  Immediately I knew this was
someone we needed to interview in a future podcast.

This podcast interview with Bob
Pasela was so much more than I had originally anticipated.  How does a Polish guy from Western
Pennsylvania raised on meat & potatoes comfort food end up as a sushi bar

Bob Pasela traces his time in San Diego starting as a deep-sea fisherman tasting raw tuna on a fishing boat for the first time.  This spark for sushi turned into an obsession of exploring sushi bars, studying the techniques of the top chefs and eventually experimenting with sushi creations at home.  His new hobby as a sushi chef turned out to be a hit with this friends as he soon became in demand for private parties.  At that point the idea of owning a sushi bar started to become more than just a fleeting wish.  It would eventually become a reality.

Bob Pasela began his career as a financial advisor with an entrepreneurial streak and a ton of hustle.  He was regularly a top performer in securing new clients and helping them grow their investment portfolios.  He had seen many clients build business plans for restaurants and knew what it would take to do it himself.  So, he eventually took the leap and started Sabuku Sushi.

It was remarkable to learn about the
challenges he faces as a restaurant owner. 
Good employees are hard to find.  Young
people that haven’t figured out their plan in life are easy to hire, but often have
no passion for the work and can disappear in an instant.  This puts pressure on the entrepreneur as he
has to step in to fill the void as a chef, a server, a prep cook, a dishwasher
or a bus boy.  Plus, as an entrepreneur
he is always changing hats from customer service to financial management to
marketing to strategic planning.  It’s exciting.  It’s stressful.  It’s rewarding.

I was blown away by the amount of
money Bob had to spend just to get his restaurant started.  After securing the 1500 sq. ft. lease and
hiring an architect, he had to pay the City of San Diego $25,000 just to
approve his plans.  After he made investments
in cooking equipment, kitchen resources, restaurant furniture and amenities, he
was out of pocket $300,000 before a single customer walked into his door.  It takes a special type of business person
with tremendous drive and tenacity to overcome these challenges and persevere.  No wonder the failure rate of restaurants is
so high.  Most are not like Bob Pasela and
don’t have what it takes to be successful.

Bob shared stories of observing
other sushi chefs focused on quality, but still largely creating the “same old”
offerings for customers.  Bob wanted to combine
this obsession with quality sea food with his hometown roots in comfort food and
do sushi like nobody has ever done it.  Ever
thought of a sushi roll with bacon?  Bob
has, and it’s awesome.

As an entrepreneur Bob shared some
of his challenges running a single restaurant and the difficulty in scaling revenue
and production.  Bob has since come up
with a new “non-restaurant” concept called Munchi Bowl that gives other
restaurants the ability to make simple, comfort food menu items in their kitchens
during hours when they are underutilized.