Restaurateur Adam Fleischman was feasting on ramen at high-end, invite-only sushi restaurant Yamakase with video-game developer Andy Gavin in May when he saw its potential to be something more.
“After dinner, I turned to Andy and said we should open a restaurant that’s more casual with the same chef, and he agreed,” said Fleischman, 46. “We wanted to bring his cuisine to an affordable price because he’s really talented.”
Later this year, the two plan to open Ramen Roll, a $20-a-person fast-casual Japanese restaurant serving ramen and hand rolls, with Yamakase chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto in Culver City.
Fleischman wants to do for sushi and ramen what he did for traditional American fare with Umami Burger and 800 Degrees Neopolitan Pizzeria, two local restaurants that grew into lucrative chains. He said he plans to follow the recipe of his past success with a chef-driven, fun dining experience.
Although the ownership group, which is funding the bulk of the venture, declined to say how much they were spending on Ramen Roll, Paul Pruitt, founder of L.A. restaurant consulting group New School, estimated it as around $1.2 million based on the size of the space.
Given Fleischman’s track record, the restaurant could be worth the investment. Pruitt estimated that each of Umami Burger’s 24 locations generates around $3 million in annual sales while each 800 Degrees generates $2 million to $2.25 million.
“He definitely swings for the fences,” said Pruitt. “Uncharted waters are where the best ideas exist, but you don’t know until you set voyage.”
Not all of Fleischman’s concepts have succeeded, but those that have more than made up for the flops.
“You can’t deny the impact he’s had on the food scene in L.A. and nationwide with the fast-casual segment,” said Pruitt. “Umami and 800 Degrees are on a short list of the most successful casual brands in the last five years.”
Fleischman’s first big hit was with Umami Burger in 2009, when he opened the first location in Mid-Wilshire. It was part of a wave of chef-driven gourmet burger joints.
Sam Nazarian’s SBE, the hospitality firm that is in the process of acquiring Morgans Hotel Group, took a significant stake in Umami in 2011 and expanded the chain outside of Los Angeles. This month, SBE reportedly raised its stake to 78 percent. Fleischman remains on the board and retains his stock. He said moving on was always part of the plan.
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