A Charlotte restaurant is blending two styles of food with great success.
Toss together sushi and burgers, season, and pour into a greased pan.
What do you get? A crazy idea; a silly concept; a highly successful restaurant? All of these in fact and the result is The Cowfish, a sushi and burger bar in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We decided we had to be different so we merged sushi and burgers together,” says Alan Springate, who co-owns the restaurant along with his business partner Marcus Hall. “We wanted to not take ourselves too seriously.”
The pair opened The Cowfish last November, playing on their joint expertise, offering burgers, sushi and a blend of the two, ‘burgushi.’ The latter includes sushi made out of burger components such as a beef roll with cheese and pesto, and bento boxes with a mini burger, half a sushi roll, Thai cucumbers, edamame and sweet potato fries.
Sales are approximately half sushi, half burgers, with burgushi accounting for around 10 percent of sales.“The burgushi menu items have a very loyal and very vocal group of fans,” Springate says.
The two business partners have run a sushi restaurant, eeZ, in a Charlotte suburb for six years and Springate also operated a burger concept in the city for two years but closed it to open The Cowfish in its place.
Before the restaurant launched, Springate and Hill ran focus groups to discover consumers’ thoughts on their unusual idea.
“About 50 percent looked at us like we were fools. The other half said that’s perfect—my wife loves sushi, I love burgers,” points out Hill. “Some in the focus group said no way; others said that’s crazy; others said what a great idea. Our goal was if we could get them in one time, they’d come back.”
The focus groups were a great idea, says Hill. “It’s money well spent. Listen to the guest, listen to the guest, listen to the guest.”
Springate and Hill also tested menu items extensively in the focus groups and found the feedback on price point to be invaluable.
“If there was a menu item we loved but it wasn’t well received in the focus groups, we never hesitated to remove it from the menu,” Springate says. “This is something we continue to do on an ongoing basis.”
Optimistic from the focus groups, yet still somewhat concerned that the concept was “too weird, too far out there, that we’d crash and burn,” the partners opened The Cowfish.