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INSIDE DISH: H2O owners return with new strategy

June 18, 2010

Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is H2O Sushi, founded in 2000 by Mike Sylvia and chef Greg Hardesty and now a mainstay along Broad Ripple Avenue. In 2005, Sylvia and Hardesty sold the Asian-themed restaurant to Eli and Nicole Anderson, married chefs who had met while working at Hardesty's downtown eatery Elements.

"I thought it was the next step in life," Eli said of the purchase, which he priced "in the mid-$100,000s."

Over four years, the Andersons netted between 2 percent and 6 percent profit annually, with a high watermark for sales of $625,000 in 2007. But by 2008, they began to buckle under the intense demands of operating a restaurant with three young children at home. With new career plans in hand, they sold H2O to neophyte restaurateur Chris Choi in 2009.

But Eli, 34, and Nicole, 31, eventually would return. Eli's plans for a more conventional 9-to-5 position with a focus on accounting fell through, so the Andersons took some time to evaluate their next move and investigate developing another eatery. Early this year, Choi offered to resell them H2O.

"I just don't think he [Choi] knew what he was getting into at that time," said Eli, who declined to reveal either the sale or repurchase price. He said Choi, a native of South Korea, reportedly has left the country and left no contact information.

With a fresh perspective on H2O, the Andersons are set on making major changes, from completely rebranding the restaurant to simply refocusing the cuisine and bringing down the average check price. In the video below, Eli details the option of deemphasizing sushi and branching into "neo-Asian comfort food." The shift, however it manifests itself, likely will take place by August. In an even more aggressive move, the Andersons also plan to begin offering lunch.



 

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H2O Sushi
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1912 Broad Ripple Ave.
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(317) 254-0677
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www.h2osushibar.com
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Concept: Eclectic mix of traditional sushi style and modern flavor combinations, with other Asian-inspired dishes with American and French influences.
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Founded: By Mike Sylvia and chef Greg Hardesty in 2000
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Owners: Eli and Nicole Anderson, who originally purchased the restaurant from Sylvia and Hardesty in 2005. They sold the restaurant in July 2009, and then repurchased it from the new owner, Chris Choi, in March 2010.
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Start-up costs: $40,000 for the most recent ownership switch, which includes licensing, legal and architectural fees, and anticipated costs for marketing, new kitchen equipment, an updated website, and refocusing the restaurant's identity by diversifying the menu or completely rebranding.
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Sales/profit: From 2005-2009, the restaurant netted between 2 percent and 6 percent profit annually, Eli Anderson said. The restaurant's best year was 2007, with $625,000 in sales. Anticipated sales for March-December 2010 are $500,000, with 2 percent to 4 percent profit.
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Seating: 54
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Goals: Options for reestablishing the restaurant's identity include deemphasizing sushi and branching into "neo-Asian comfort food," such as soups, noodle dishes and dim sum. The Andersons also plan to start offering lunch in addition to dinner.
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Good to know: The Andersons have three children, ages 6, 4 and 2.
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