Wednesday | November 22, 2017
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Irasshaimase!: Genki Sushi opens to public today at Prince Kuhio Plaza

Prince Kuhio Plaza on Thursday welcomed its newest addition during a ribbon-cutting for Japanese restaurant Genki Sushi.

The Hilo restaurant, which hosts its grand opening today, is the sushi chain’s second location on the Big Island. The other restaurant is in Kailua-Kona.

Mary Hansen, chief administrative officer for Genki Sushi, said that, of the eight locations in the state, only the Hilo restaurant features the most updated version of the chain’s signature express technology used to order and deliver food.

The updates to the system include touch-screen tablets at each table and bench seat with which patrons can place orders, as well as two rails for the restaurant’s signature “trains” to transport dishes from the kitchen to waiting customers, Hansen said.

“The goal for us is to get food out hot and fresh,” said manager Kim Morante. “It’s not quite a fast-food restaurant. I’d call it more a ‘fast-serving’ place.”

Despite the efficiency of the automated system, there is no shortage of workers at the restaurant. Morante said the restaurant employs about 70 people, including chefs, waitstaff and managers.

Morante said the employees have undergone five hours of training each day for more than a week in order to adapt to the restaurant’s unique system and develop group cohesion. In a holdover from the restaurant’s Japanese origins, staff call “irasshaimase” — meaning “welcome” — in unison to greet patrons.

Mall manager Daniel Kea said he was excited for Genki Sushi to finally open.

“We’re happy they’re here,” Kea said. “It’s been a long time coming. It took about two years to get through negotiations.”

The restaurant is the first business to occupy a new building at Prince Kuhio Plaza. The building stands on the former site of Hilo Hattie, which was demolished in 2016 after the souvenir store closed in 2015.

Kea said the remainder of the building will be occupied by a Verizon Wireless branch and an undisclosed food vendor. Depending on the vendor, Kea said, there might be additional space in the building left over for a fourth tenant.

The Verizon store is scheduled to open in November, but Kea said he expects its opening to be delayed until December. Morante said the grand opening event today will feature balloons for children and the chance to win prizes by playing games. The event will take place from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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