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Hissho Sushi: Rolling Up Fresh, Quality Products to Exceed Expectations
The past few years have been record-breaking in terms of growth for Hissho Sushi (Hissho). The North Carolina-based food service provider and distributor owns and operates over 400 sushi bars in upscale supermarkets, cafés, hospitals, universities and corporate locations. Hissho’s dedication to top-quality ingredients, exceeding customer expectations and offering restaurant-grade sushi at affordable price points has made the company an industry standout.
Embodying the American Dream
Hissho represents what hard work and dedication can really pull off. Philip Maung, CEO of Hissho, arrived in the U.S. in 1989 with less than $13 in his pocket and a vision of a better life. Maung discovered a niche in the emerging supermarket sushi industry and invested his time and energy into learning every step of the business.
“I lived in California for a while where sushi was growing in popularity, but noticed the need on the East Coast,” recalls Maung. “That’s what brought me to Charlotte, N.C.”
Growing up with sushi as part of daily meals, Maung developed an early obsession. “Since I was 8 years old my parents have been in the food business,” explains Maung. “My brother and I grew up helping them.” Therefore, the formation of Maung’s own company was a natural progression.
In April 1998 Maung and his wife, Kristina, decided to pool their resources, founding Hissho out of their family dining room. “As with any startup company, the first few years were very challenging,” admits Maung. “We finally started making money after our third year in business.”
To his delight, Hissho has come a long way from Maung’s home kitchen. Today, Hissho operates out of a 46,000-square-foot facility in Charlotte and employs 267 foodservice experts. Although the company sells products out of more than 400 sushi bars in 30 states, Maung reveals he carefully chooses each location.
“We focus on a much higher standard of quality and service; that’s how we’ve made our name,” he shares. “We carefully select our locations; we might not be on every corner, but we’re in all of the good places.”
The company’s two sushi bars on-site at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, according to Maung, have become two of the reasons frequent flyers enjoy their layovers. “We have been told many times how much they love our sushi,” he says.
Even the current economic situation hasn’t hindered Hissho’s growth. “As far as the downturn, we didn’t feel it that much,” details Maung. “While others were quick to lower their quality to save a buck we remained consistent. We’ve actually increased revenue in 2009 and 2010.”
An increase is an understatement. In the past three years Hissho has grown over 68 percent, with total revenue of approximately $26 million in 2008 increasing to $44 million in 2011. The company has also added an additional 116 employees.
Amid all of this success, Maung remains true to the humble roots upon which he founded Hissho. Maung is quick to point out that the company values the employees who’ve helped make the progress possible. “Every year we celebrate,” he reveals. “Holidays, marriages, graduations – you name it. We’re like a big family here.” The company’s core values involve the balance between work and play, as Hissho believes a happy workplace makes for happy staff and increases productivity.
Turnkey Products: The Only Way to Roll
Hissho provides turnkey sushi and sashimi bars to markets of all shapes and sizes. The company ensures clients that Hissho grab-and-go sushi products will significantly generate more business. All products are prepared daily on-site by talented chefs, well-versed in the culinary art form that is sushi. As Hissho’s tagline reads: “Made Fresh Daily. That’s How We Roll.”
Whether it’s the traditional California roll, an eel roll or spicy sriracha-topped sashimi tuna, rest assured the ingredients utilized are the freshest out there. Maung and his team source the best possible ingredients from world markets, guaranteeing the most outstanding seafood, soy, rice and vinegar.
Hissho’s chefs purchase fruits and vegetables locally from sustainable sources, and customers will never find artificial coloring or dye in the company’s wasabi and ginger. Hissho offers multigrain and brown rice as an option for nearly all of its rolls, delivering the health benefits and authentic taste of true Japanese sushi.
The company strives to bring the most timesaving solutions to its clients. “We’re looking to increase customer convenience by implementing online ordering,” details Andrea Lee, head of corporate communications for Hissho. “We’re going to redo our website by the end of 2013, which will allow for e-commerce and online ordering.”
Hissho continues to stay innovative in every way possible. “We try to come up with a new item every six months or so by having competitions between our chefs,” reveals Maung. “Developing new products is a factor, but most important is making our company culture better and stronger. If we’re doing the right thing; it comes naturally.”
Hissho’s commitment to the most delicious, fresh sushi and innovative nature has earned the company award-winning respect. Several times Maung has been nominated as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2012 Hissho was named to the Inc. 5,000 as one of the fastest growing privately owned businesses in the U.S. for the third consecutive year.
Despite Maung’s great successes, he remains humble; Maung’s once seemingly far-fetched dream turned into reality with the creation and well-recognized success of Hissho. Through a decade of overwhelming growth, Hissho Sushi remains true to its founding principles by rolling excellent products and exceptional customer commitment all into one delicious bite.