With California opening in June, Kura Sushi’s momentum intensified to start Q4. In the second part of June, Kura Sushi saw comps rise 4 percent, with California-based stores down in the single digits and Texas restaurants rising in the double-digits. In June, off-premises mixed 6 percent, which is within the mid-single to high-single digit expectation Kura has for post-pandemic off-premises sales.
“We are thrilled with the success we've experienced so far, and our team is ready to capitalize on our guests' pent-up demand for the full Kura experience,” Uba said.
In June, the second- and third-strongest performing restaurants were Bellevue, Washington, which opened in June, and Fort Lee, New Jersey, a store that debuted last fall. That trend continued into July. To Uba, the success of the new markets “is a clear demonstration of the broader appeal of Kura Sushi in the U.S., and the confirmation of the enormous opportunity we have ahead of us as we continue to expand our footprint.”
Kura’s largest store is 6,800 square feet, but the Fort Lee unit is about 3,000 square feet, while Bellevue is about 4,000 square feet. This means strong sales were achieved without a larger size or greater occupancy limits. But that doesn't mean Kura will automatically shift to smaller stores. To Uba, it’s more about choosing the right market and real estate. Bellevue and Fort Lee were the first stores in Washington and the East Coast, respectively. Because of this, the restaurants were able to draw from a larger radius. For example, when Kura opened its first Texas store, customers drove three hours from Oklahoma.
“We do take an unusual approach in our unit growth in that we are not hub-and-spoke model. We take a non-contiguous approach, which is powered by our remote management system,” Uba said. “And I say that this is a huge competitive advantage for us. If we were operating from a more traditional hub-and-spoke model it would have been much later in our corporate life that we would have discovered just how lucrative and attractive the Pacific Northwest and East Coast are as markets for us.”
Uba said Kura’s 2022 development plan will benefit from new real estate opportunities brought forth by the pandemic as well as a more rigorous site selection process using data and analytics. The chain has executed eight leases, including three new markets—Arizona, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Uba called it “the most exciting pipeline we’ve had since entering the space.”