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‘Restaurant Without A Restaurant’ Brings Sushi To The Street

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Sabi Sushi "drop zone" on the 16th Street Mall near the World Trade Center. (credit: CBS)

Sabi Sushi “drop zone” on the 16th Street Mall near the World Trade Center. (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – Three young entrepreneurs are testing the tough economy by starting a restaurant without an actual restaurant. Shaan Puri, Trevor Ragan, and Dan Certner started Sabi Sushi last month. It’s an online storefront, a commercial kitchen, and a drop zone on the 16th Street Mall.

“We had the idea to make sushi more accessible and provide high quality sushi but to the masses,” Puri told CBS4.

The college friends graduated from Duke University. Instead of pursuing the life paths laid out for them, Puri was going to go to medical school, Certner was headed to Wall Street, and Ragan was going to be a teacher/coach, they decided they wanted to follow their passion, sushi.

“It’s been unbelievable. We started this idea and we knew it was a little bit crazy but it was so cheap that we said we will give it a shot,” Puri said.

With no overhead costs on a restaurant, the team paid for space in a commercial kitchen, for the design of a simple website, and the ingredients to make fresh sushi every day.

“We started this off under $7,000. I’ve spent more on groceries than I did on this actual start up,” Puri added.

Puri and his partners say their focus is freshness. They make each sushi rolls as the order comes in online. Then a driver runs it down to the drop zone on the 16th Street Mall. They claim the whole process takes about 25 minutes. Right now, they’re targeting downtown workers are lunch time.

“It’s a great concept. It’s really convenient for us with our office right here so we will give it a try,” said one customer as she waited to pay for her order.

It’s Denverites willingness to try something new like this that brought Sabi Sushi here. Puri, Ragan, and Certner trained under Chef Phillip Yi, the former director of the California Sushi Academy. But when it came time to try the concept, they picked Denver.

“People here can appreciate high quality food at a little lower price point and that’s because Chipotle and Noodles & Company, these guys have paved the way for us,” Puri said.

Sabi Sushi offers a limited selection of sushi rolls priced from $7-$9. The drop zone consists of a card table, a sign, and a salesperson dressed in a black chef’s jacket with a bright green bandanna. Deliveries are made to the drop zone every few minutes, and the team uses an iPad to collect payment.

“Location, location, location is the mantra of the industry and we said ‘What if we take that out of the picture’,” Puri said.

Sabi Sushi hopes to add more drop zones as the concept catches on. All three co-founders feel this is a business model that can easily travel throughout the city and even to other cities.

“If we figure this out, then there’s something special to that. We take pride in making something out of nothing and making people’s day,” Puri said.

Right now Sabi Sushi is available at sabisushi.com from 8am to 2pm weekdays. Order early because when the ingredients run out, they’re done for the day.

- Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith

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