In June, as part of the Canadian Business Resilience Network campaign, we, with the generosity of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), gave 62 small Canadian businesses from coast to coast to coast $10,000 Small Business Relief Fund grants. More than 1,100 small businesses across Canada applied for a grant, and Fukasaku restaurant in Prince Rupert, B.C., was a successful applicant.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Daisuke (Dai) Fukasaku moved to Canada in 2007 to work as a sushi chef. It didn’t take long for him to discover and delight in B.C.’s seafood. In fact, customers, clients and local fishers have helped him discover and use fresh local staples, such as seaweed, pine mushrooms, salmon, sea urchins, shrimp, crab and more.
In 2013, Dai opened Fukasaku, the very first 100% Ocean Wise approved sushi restaurant in British Columbia. Dai exclusively uses B.C. seafood in his restaurant and advocates the importance of consuming local seafood and produce, healthy oceans and supporting small-scale fisheries to protect Canada’s coast.
Like many restaurants in Canada, Fukasaku was hit hard by COVID-19. Since mid-March, it has suffered a significant loss of revenue. Sales between March and May decreased by 60% over 2019 figures. The restaurant is reliant on summer tourist traffic, and the pandemic hit on that front as well, lowering rates of visitors and reducing dining capacity in the restaurant due to health and safety precautions.
Currently Dai is engaged in negotiations for a new restaurant site. This potential move would provide space to diversify the business in response to the uncertain times. Grant monies received will assist with renovations, business planning, new equipment purchases and staff training.
In the new space, Dai would downsize the restaurant dining space and create a community retail marketplace where local fishers could connect to local restaurants, and Dai hopes to extend the market to include additional products, such as sea salt, seaweed and more; these items come from the local community and from others in British Columbia.
Dai also wants to increase the profile and sales of Fukasaku house-branded dressings. Fukasaku’s specialty dressing sales have great potential; they are extremely popular locally and are already carried by two stores in Vancouver. Expansion into these additional activities and the upping of production for Fukasaku sauces will help ease the reliance Fukasaku has had on the restaurant alone.
Dai has spent much time developing his business. The pandemic has given him the opportunity to think long-term about his business and personal goals. He knows the future will be challenging but is hopeful about the potential the business holds given his new plans.
The pandemic has also raised the awareness of many people of the issue of food security. Fukasaku has been serving locally sourced sustainable B.C. seafood for the last seven years. Through this time, the business has earned the trust of the fishers. The convergence of the pandemic and the interest in locally sourced, sustainable food provides an opportunity for the timing of this future retail marketplace and for Dai.
To use a fishing analogy, Dai Fukasaku has cast bait in uncharted waters but hopes his plan to diversify will help him reel in more business.