Now it’s sushi to go, via mobile message

September 16th, 2003 Tech, Tech Features, The West Australian

The Japanese have always known and loved their technology. Maybe it’s something about their culture — IT just seems to have a place in every aspect of Japanese live and society.

And we’ve always loved their food. Sushi train bars, Teppanyaki restaurants and suburban shopping centre food court Japanese takeaways sprung up all over Perth during the mid 90’s like they did across the rest of Australia, and now you can enjoy the same range of price and quality in Japanese food as you can in the humble hamburger or pizza.

At Mosman Park’s Tsunami Sushi, one of Perth’s finer purveyors of Japanese cuisine, that most Japanese of communications technologies — the mobile phone — is set to transform business. In what owner Brett Carboni claims is a world first, you’re now able to order your takeaway from Tsunami completely by SMS.

Finally those menu numbers have a more worthy purpose than hiding our ignorance when we say ‘a number 32, please’ rather than admit we can’t pronounce it. Referencing a business card-sized menu available at the restaurant, patrons can place their order and have it confirmed entirely without speaking a word.

"You send us your order, for example ‘PLS MAKE 30, 22, 2×51’," Carboni explains, "then we SMS you back to tell you how long it’ll take. You then SMS us back saying ‘OK’, ‘THANKS’ etc, and your order will be ready. If we don’t get the okay back from you though, we don’t go ahead."

It must be a hit with the western suburbs yuppies and twentysomethings surgically attached to their mobiles all day long. Asked if he’s tapped into that market using the method, Carboni says it hasn’t been that cut and dried. "It’s tapped into that demographic already," he says, "But most customers who use the service seen quite ‘normal’. They’re youngish — it seems more of a Generation Y thing than a Generation X thing, but it’s not at all a yuppie thing or even (surprisingly) a ‘geek’ thing."

So is Tsunami at the start of a hospitality service connectivity revolution?

"We can email at the moment," Carboni says, "pretty simple really — just a list of the menu items. But we also have the latest generation phones — a Sony Ericsson P800 — and are investigating the options. Soon we’re introducing a Bluetooth transfer service [to transfer menus wirelessly to customers’ phones and computer], and while pictures of dishes is a good idea it’s pretty slow and the browsing interface is cumbersome when you consider the screen size. Plus the photos take up space that’s at a premium on most people’s devices. All in all, it would be relatively easy, but really, text is still an efficient form of communication."

Not that Tsunami needs a groovy hook to win business. Most of the technology Carboni talks about implementing he’s trying to think about in between organising Tsunami’s signature Friday jazz night and the Golden Plate Awards, in which the restaurant is a finalist.

And even though Carboni says it’s too early to guess what percentage of takeaways come through the SMS ordering service, it’s definitely growing.

Can e-sushi be far off?

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