Farrah Scott was 21 years old when she got her first gig at a full-service restaurant. Before that, she worked a myriad of odd jobs, from coffee stands and pawn shops to telemarketing. “Since I was about 17 or 18 years old, I was always out just on my own, doing my own thing. I didn’t really stay at home for very long,” she says.
It was her first time serving tables at the Trapper’s Sushi location in Bremerton, Washington, which at the time was a small, 1,000-square-foot restaurant. Trapper O’Keeffe had opened the first—originally called Sushi Town—in 2004 in Bonney Lake, Washington. It wasn’t long before interest grew in the non-traditional, all-you-can-eat sushi concept, which has grown to 15 units and counting in Washington, Arizona, and Texas.
“When I came on board as a server, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, you can make a lot of money serving tables,’” Scott recalls. “I was so enamored by how fast paced it was, how if I worked hard, I could earn more hours and make more money, and my management just really recognized it. They were like, ‘oh, you’re the best server we’ve ever had.’”
“It kind of made me fall in love with the restaurant industry at just that level—the chaos that it is, but it’s controlled, it’s fun, you get to interact with so many people,” she adds. “That’s kind of what drew me in, and then they started offering me leadership roles.”
Within a year and a half, Scott was offered an assistant manager position, and the following year, she was asked to be the general manager of the location. “I did that for a year, and then I was asked to help train all the managers in the company to make things a little more consistent,” she says, which was in 2016. By that time, Trapper’s Sushi had grown to eight locations.
Scott realized there was no formal operations or training manual, which meant there were several inconsistencies between locations, down to differing recipes of the same dish. She started standardizing processes, building structure, and retraining management staff at each location. When the 12th store opened in 2021, which was the brand’s debut in Arizona, Scott accompanied the operator and helped them set up and launch. A month after the successful opening, she was promoted to chief operations officer.
Then, on January 1, she was elevated to the top role of CEO, announced by the brand on social media which noted her “trademark do-anything attitude and hard-working spirit.”
“Farrah has worked nearly every job at Trapper’s, spearheaded our Wingfield Program for leadership development, and works tirelessly every day to give Trapper’s customers and employees the best experience possible,” the post on Facebook and Instagram says.
O’Keeffe had been prepping Scott since 2021 to eventually take the reins. “He had told me his intentions, like ‘someday, I see you as a CEO,’” she says. Though, she was surprised that it was announced at the company’s holiday party. “I didn’t know that’s how he was going to announce it to the company. I thought it was going to be more of a slow and steady thing.”
“And the big surprise was he had a video made from all my team and some of the people that are closest to me in the company that had been there with me through my journey, just congratulating me and things like that. It was a very nice way to receive that promotion and announcement,” she adds. “It means the world to me. This company has been everything to me for the last 11 years, so I’ve worked really hard to try to get to this level. I didn’t expect to get this far, that’s for sure.”
Trapper’s unique menu and model
The non-traditional menu at Trapper’s Sushi is meant to make sushi approachable and offer something for everyone. For example, the Buddha-Licious has crystal shrimp, cream cheese fried in tempura topped with avocado, sweet chili sauce, green onion, and teriyaki, while the Phoenix has grilled salmon, cucumber, avocado, spicy sauce, Japanese pepper, and ponzu sauce.
“I like to say somebody that comes in with a group of sushi eaters and have never had it before, we can get them something they like, and a lot of times they don’t believe it that they’re going to like sushi, and we’re able to fit them with a roll,” Scott says.
Guests can eat all the sushi they can for just $26.95 for lunch, while the all-you-can-eat dinner menu costs $36.95, but includes appetizers and salads, nigiri, long rolls, and speciality rolls—like the Thunderbird with chicken, tempura asparagus, cucumber and shrimp fried in tempura, covered in avocado, with lemon slices, sweet chili sauce, warrior sauce, and teriyaki.
“The all-you-can-eat aspect to our business, that’s very unique than what you would see at any other sushi restaurant where customers can sit up in front of the chefs and order sushi made to order for one flat price and eat as much as they can,” Scott says. “A lot of concepts do pre-plated or conveyor belt.”
“We do everything made to order and that all-you-can-eat experience, and it is very difficult to execute, so that does make me very proud of this business that we’re able to do that at such a large scale,” she adds. “But that’s kind of what Trapper got known for and how his business blew up here in Washington.”
A key part of the brand’s future growth strategy is partnering with employees, who have the potential to own a restaurant through the brand’s Wingfield Program, which was founded by Scott in 2022 to foster future leaders. To clarify, this isn’t a franchisee situation, since the investment is 100 percent on the corporate side, and Trapper’s isn’t selling any restaurants to the public.
Here’s how the program works: Employees are selected based on how well they embody the brand’s core values, and how well they can operate a restaurant—though the company helps them in that area through a leadership development program, which has about 80 people in it currently.
Josh Martin opened the first employee-owned partnership location in December 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. The second will be opening in Arizona in February by Mariah Wingfield, who is a regional manager in the area.
Employee partners have a 51 percent ownership split, with O’Keeffe owning the remaining 49 percent. “What happens when they come into the partnership situation is there’s obviously loans and things to pay off, and so they work that off as an operator, and we still pay them during that process,” Scott explains. “Then once financially that’s all set, that goes into the separate part of the contract where it’s profit sharing with the two.”
Scott says the goal is to eventually have 100 employee-owned restaurants.
“Trapper’s purpose, which he dialed in back in 2018, is to provide ordinary people with extraordinary opportunity, and it’s definitely showing that that’s what our culture is,” Scott says. “A lot of times businesses may have a mission or a purpose or something like that, but we actually are doing it and moving forward and pushing the needle so we can move forward. Every decision that we’re making right now is based off of getting to 100 employee owned partnerships.”
“That’s what Trapper’s is about—just giving that extraordinary opportunity to somebody that may not have had it, including myself,” she adds.