Sushi Lab began in early 2019 on the lobby level floor of Sanctuary Hotel in Times Square. We wanted to offer consumers an alternative to traditionally pricey and commercialized sushi dining options in the neighborhood. We took over the lobby space that was formerly used by the concierge and created counter seating for eight to enjoy either a quick bite for lunch or a full dining experience. This past spring and summer season, we created an outdoor seating rooftop venue to accommodate guests safely during the pandemic.
When we first opened Sushi Lab, we needed a user-friendly and seamless POS solution. I discovered Clover POS when buying a coffee at a local nearby shop and immediately found it intuitive and easy to use. Since implementing Clover, we have been able to deliver an elegant payment experience right to the customer at the table (when our doors were open), in addition to helping our business streamline and improve operations.
Before the pandemic, our biggest challenge was accommodating long wait times during peak dining hours due to our limited bar seating. We quickly became a popular lunch spot for employees who worked at nearby financial institutions and at media outlets. So we had to find a solution to balance the demand, while still providing quality food and customer service.
We did not use third-party delivery or takeaway prior to COVID-19. This was due to us wanting to maintain the integrity and quality of our ingredients as sushi typically does not travel well.
Pivot to Off Prem
When the pandemic hit and we were forced to shut down, we did exclusively takeout business for months until New York City began allowing businesses to re-open with outdoor seating. From that point, we built a new rooftop seating area for guests so they could feel comfortable and safe while dining outdoors. With the new rooftop area, we also used Clover to bring more touchless payment experiences to our guests by allowing them to pay directly from their seat at the table.
We currently use Clover Station as our primary point-of-sale device, in addition to the handheld Clover Flex to take payments at the table. We also use Clover Dining software solutions, which have really helped us to manage and customize our seating map so we can adjust it for social distancing and easily add more tables again when it’s safe to do so. We’re also looking at solutions that will further enable touchless payment experiences for our guests, such as digital menus and fully digital ordering and payment.
Due to NYC regulations, our indoor dining remains closed for now, but we continue to provide takeout service to consumers. By leveraging technology, we are remaining resilient whether it’s through our strong social media following on Instagram, for example, or from frequent takeout orders facilitated by Clover. The pandemic has made us more customer-centric and we continue to communicate and stay in touch with our guests through emails and social media, notifying them of changes and new offerings.
The pandemic has taught us the benefits of going ‘touchless.’ A consumer can still enjoy a great sushi experience through contactless ordering and payment via their mobile devices. In the future, we are looking to accept mobile wallet payment, like Apple and Samsung Pay, and we expect to see digital payment trends continue to increase in this year and beyond.
I believe we’ll continue to see a growing investment in and adoption of digital technology by restaurants to not only enhance customer experience and loyalty, but to give guests peace of mind when it comes to safely and securely ordering and enjoying the food they love. Touchless payment options for consumers will become a widespread solution for the restaurant industry that’s here to stay. When the climate does improve, and it will, we will be better prepared for it.
About the Author:
Jeremy Poon is VP of operations for Sanctuary Hotel and Managing Director of Sushi Lab in New York City.