I’m a little bit stunned. The captain of the Hapa Ramen ship just got beached!
For those in the SF Bay that don’t know the name Richie Nakano- he’s built himself a name and a standard for quality over the last five or so years as a first rate technician and great supplier of great ramen and other delectables. From pop-ups and farmer’s markets to food trucks, he’s fine tuned his expertise and worked his way up to his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, which opened in November of last year. You can find their website at http://haparamensf.com/index.php
And now it’s all gone. His investors fired him this week, according to a thorough bit of research from Inside Scoop SF.
I suggest taking a look at their article here: http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/2015/03/28/richie-nakano-and-hapa-ramen-split/ , where they term it “a business decision”.
Business decision it may be, but it’s a very, very bad one. Hitting the nail on the head right at the end of that article: “Looking ahead, Nakano says he has a few different opportunities that he plans to pursue, but as anyone who tracked his evolution at his pop-ups, stood in line at the market stand, or even followed him from afar via Twitter knows, in many ways, for better or worse, he was Hapa Ramen.”
It’s completely true. Who fires a guy who’s made food trucks and pop ups profitable, and has steady business at his first sit-down restaurant?
Competent restaurant business managers understand that new locations eat cash and don’t make money right out of the gate. Creating a steady, profitable business model takes time to implement. Those five years of Richie’s work weren’t for nothing- he was building a fanbase that was bound to pay huge dividends if nurtured properly. He was endlessly patient in his development, but clearly his investors weren’t.
On a personal note, I actually interviewed for the GM position at the brick-and-mortar Hapa Ramen in the months before it opened. I didn’t get the position, but I was behind Richie Nakano’s vision 100%, and would gladly have lent a hand however I was able. But now? After seeing how terribly Chef Nakano’s efforts have been treated, I’m disgusted and furious at the blatant impatience and ingratitude of the new owner of the Hapa Ramen name.
Remember this name, people. Owen Van Natta owns Hapa Ramen now. A guy who’s Exec VP of business for Zynga. You know, the Farmville people, with the rep for gouging the computer illiterate with pay-to-play browser games? Keep that firmly in mind when they debut their next menu change.