Relocating to Gibsons, British Columbia, in 2007, from his hometown of Tokyo, Japan, Daisuke (Dai) Fukasaku has been adapting and flourishing since his arrival in Canada. In 2013, with a passion for fresh seafood and local ingredients, Dai opened Fukasaku restaurant in the Northwest fishing hub of Prince Rupert.
Dai pledged that all the seafood and ingredients he used would be locally-sourced, using only sustainable BC seafood in every dish he serves. As a result, Fukasaku was the first sushi restaurant in BC to be 100% certified by Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, which Dai credits to the strong connection he has with local fishermen and fisheries. Apart from the dishes he serves, the sake, craft beers, and wines—even the tables and chairs—are locally-sourced, as well.
Needless to say, the restaurant and hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit industries throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Fukasaku has been no exception. With a nearly 60% decrease in revenue, a reduced operating capacity, and substantially fewer tourists to the region, this year could have spelled disaster for the restaurant and this well-intentioned entrepreneur.
In June 2020, Dai was referred to the Tourism Resiliency Program through his local Chamber of Commerce. His original intention was to speak with experts regarding available relief programs and find out what safety protocols his restaurant should be following. It quickly became clear to him that the program offered more value than just that and he enthusiastically capitalized on that opportunity, meeting with hospitality and business experts and mentors.
When asked about the program, Dai responded, “It was very helpful for sure. I have never worked with any kind of consultant or mentor in this way before.” Adding, “they gave me lots of relevant homework and have provided me with the confidence to accelerate plans I had always held, but had never implemented.”
It had long been Dai’s intention to diversify his company, working to downsize his restaurant, increase community marketing and promote his signature dressing for additional sales. The Tourism Resiliency Program arranged a consulting session with Theresa Ito, a hospitality and businesses operations expert from Blue Mountain Solutions, where Dai was given the confidence to follow through on these plans. (This session was followed by another session with Theresa’s partner, Chef Takashi Ito, whom he previously collaborated with during an event on a trip to Victoria.) Thus, limiting his hours to a 3-day week and operating at 50% capacity, he has faced the challenge of COVID19 head-on and is fully booked on the days he is open.
Additionally, Dai is in the process of creating the community retail marketplace he had always dreamed of: a place where the local fishing industry could connect with restaurants, local consumers, and visitors. Dai hopes to extend the market to include additional products, such as sea salt and seaweed. All items are produced, harvested, and procured from the local community.
The pandemic has not only forced Dai to focus on adapting his business, it has also reinforced his belief in the value of locally-sourced ingredients. In a time when supply chains and food security around the globe are forcing consumers, grocery stores, and restaurants to make difficult decisions, he is confident in the long-term resiliency of his business model.
Fakasaku credits his community of suppliers and consumers for supporting him through this difficult time, saying, “in the last 25 years, I have lived in 13 different towns between 5 different states and provinces within the U.S. and Canada. In all my travels, I have not lived in a more friendly, more generous, or more nature-oriented town than here in Prince Rupert.”