Kura Revolving Sushi Bar in Japanese Village Plaza, Little Tokyo (Photo by ELLEN ENDO)

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

As pandemic fears begin to wane and customers return to Little Tokyo, lines of people outside of restaurants and shops are also returning. One business that appears to be approaching its former glory is the Kura Revolving Sushi Bar in Little Tokyo.

Kura was among the first to pivot to takeout service and then set up outdoor tables amid the pandemic a year ago. By every measure, the clamor for moveable morsels remains robust.

According to the company’s quarterly earnings report released Nov. 12, the company’s stock surged 27 percent to $69.27 per share and posted revenue of $27.9 million, representing a $5.5 million increase over the same period in 2020. The technology-enabled restaurant firm had an operating loss of $0.8 million during the quarter, compared to $6.8 million in 2020. 

Although it isn’t the first Little Tokyo eatery to deliver sushi via conveyor belt (the first was Frying Fish, which once operated in Japanese Village Plaza), Kura Sushi USA, Inc. was able to expand and build on the concept. Today, the Irvine-based company has grown to 33 locations across nine states and Washington, D.C.

Most recent openings were in Bellevue, Wash. and San Francisco. Plans include opening eight to 10 new restaurants in the U.S. in 2022.

Kura originated in Japan, opening its first restaurant in 1977 and growing to more than 500 international locations including Japan and Taiwan. In 2008, the U.S. company was established as a subsidiary of Kura Sushi, Inc.

“Our fiscal fourth-quarter results demonstrate the continued momentum in our business recovery,” said Hajime “Jimmy” Uba, Kura Sushi president and chief executive officer, commenting on the company’s resurgence. “Despite challenges presented by COVID-19 and its variants, we generated meaningful top-line growth and a solid 4.9 percent increase in comparable restaurant sales versus 2019.”

Uba also credited the company’s successful performance to operational efficiencies as well as “renewed focus on recruitment and retention and continued investment in technological innovation and automation.”

Aside from Little Tokyo, Southern California locations are Sawtelle, Koreatown, Sherman Oaks, Garden Grove, Glendale, Torrance, Cypress, Brea, and Cerritos.

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