He says viewers would be surprised by how involved and engaged the sharks are post investment. Higgins checks in regularly, Vaknin says. “Always connecting and always seeing what’s the next thing, and what we’re doing. He’s been constantly involved.”
Beyond Sushi was the first vegan restaurant to ever pitch on Shark Tank. Vaknin founded the chain, which specializes in vegan sushi, wraps, dumplings, and noodle bowls, in 2012 with $70,000 he had in life savings. The first store featured 12 seats, a counter, one employee and was pushing $1 million out of a 280-square foot box. Currently, the chain runs about $2 million average-unit volumes from its larger 2,500-square foot footprints, which also feature table service. There’s a 108-square foot spot that does $600,000. Beyond Sushi is a commissary-based business as well—a model that offers Vaknin flexibility to remain agile in the real estate gauntlet that is New York City, and to meet grab-and-go demand as off-premises booms.
Vaknin says he wasn’t nearly as nervous as he figured he would be when he stepped into the Tank. His wife and business partner, Tali, pushed Vaknin to pitch on the show for years. He agreed finally and filled out the paperwork. After not hearing back initially, someone from the show connected and he jumped.
Vaknin hit the stage during an interesting crossroads in the restaurant’s history. The chain achieved $4 million in sales last year after $2.4 million the previous calendar and $978,000 the year before. But unlike 2016, when he put $600,000 profit in his pocket, Beyond Sushi actually took a $272,000 loss in 2017. Vaknin also invested $160,000 of his own money to roll some broad—and expensive—changes. This included the opening of two 2,500-square-foot unit restaurants and the commissary. Vaknin says he expects Beyond Sushi to generate about $5.6 million in 2018 and profit $300,000.
Sandy Beall, the founder and former chairman and chief executive of Ruby Tuesday, who left the casual company after 40 years in 2012, is a 25 percent investor in Beyond Sushi.