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Named MakiMaki for its two types of maki offerings; the traditional maki which gets cut up into eight pieces and the cone-shaped temaki handrolls, Kevin Takarada’s Japanese restaurants have found success in a very competitive market on the strength of two factors; cost and quality. With menu prices ranging from $4 to $10, a sleek and modern interior design, and prime locations in Midtown Manhattan, it’s evident that MakiMaki owner, Kevin Takarada knows what it takes to make a successful business. Kevin welcomed us to his newly-opened second location near Penn Station this week and offered us not only a taste of some of the freshest maki EVER, but a crash course in sushi and a peek into what it takes to run a business. Check out Kevin’s keywords of advice and more about MakiMaki’s burgeoning success, below!

“Follow Your Gut Instinct”

Takarada shared this piece of advice he finds to be “tried and true.” And it definitely seems apropos to his career path; as a teenager, Kevin worked in his parents’ Japanese restaurant as a sous chef, he then went on to get a degree in mechanical engineering and later pursue a career in finance. Now he is the proprietor of two sushi restaurants, a full-circle moment, indeed.

“Never Give Up”

“When you’re an aspiring business person, that’s the number-one problem that you’re gonna face—you’re gonna feel defeated time after time because you’re gonna go through so many denials and people saying, ‘who are you?’ ‘Why is your business special from somebody else and why should I trust you?’ and blah blah blah. For example, me finding a suitable landlord in Manhattan was very difficult. It took me two years to find a lease [for the first location]. But now that I’m open and people understand what I’m about, then the doors are opening. But before…it was a huge struggle and at a certain time, you want to give up and say, ‘You know what, forget about it. I’m happy at finance’. But something inside me was like ‘I gotta keep trying’.”

“Always Find the Solution in Every Single Problem You Face”

“Every single difficulty is a solution waiting to happen,” Kevin shared. With a background in engineering and financing, Kevin has taken a technological approach to solve his restaurants’ problems. Not only does he keep track of expenses and profits through an app on his phone, but he also employs the use of robots to help his business run more efficiently and cost-effectively. Detailing the tedious and time-consuming process to prepare rice for each of his maki dishes, Kevin shared that by utilizing robotics he not only eliminated expensive costs but the need to hire someone specifically for this painstaking process.

photo by elizabeth samuel

Kevin also found the solution to another major issue that plagues the sushi business; “people tend to say that the inherent problem with the hand roll is it gets soggy really quickly,” he shared. Figuring out how to keep the seaweed, that holds the cut and hand rolls together, crisp and fresh for more than a few minutes has been a major challenge, but it was nothing that Kevin couldn’t handle. He went on to help create a patented hand roll technology that protects the seaweed from rice’s natural moisture. By employing innovation and forward-thinking Kevin has been able to keep his commitment to offering high-quality sushi at a great, low cost. It’s no doubt that MakiMaki has upped the sushi standard (and the hand rolls are to die!).

Check out more of MakiMaki by clicking here!

Featured Image Courtesy of MakiMaki