SAGA Kitchen’s Micro Food Hall Concept Brings Different Cuisines Together

SAGA Kitchen is Alameda’s only Bay Area Pan-Asian food hall serving sushi, Chinese, dim sum, Japanese, ramen, and udon under one roof with easy online ordering. Founded by Gilbert Liang, the business began unconventionally in October 2020 during the pandemic. According to Gilbert, the opportunity came unexpectedly when his former partners found a Chinese restaurant that was behind on the lease due to the pandemic. He saw that as a great business opportunity while offering a helping hand to the family that owned the restaurant.

The restaurant was no longer operating, so they brought out their lease and negotiated their exit. It had a very large kitchen but had been shut down for six months. After evaluation, Gilbert realized it would be unrealistic to operate a conventional restaurant like the previous owner. He shares, “The lightbulb moment came when I suddenly realized that a few of my friends were planning to open their own food business, but the pandemic and the expensive overhead and startup cost deterred them. I decided we should open a cloud kitchen composed of different restaurants/food vendors inside to share the kitchen, resources, and even labor.”

Gilbert adds, “By being a consultant by trade, I launched SAGA Kitchen as a food incubator for small/micro food businesses by combining my passion for food as well as helping businesses succeed. As indoor dining restrictions started to lift, we decided to lease next door as well and expanded our indoor dining and transfer SAGA Kitchen as known today for being a micro food hall.”

The SAGA Kitchen management focuses on building the future business model for the food business. They observed that the challenges created by the pandemic for the food industry would remain, so they employed different technologies to enhance their operation. This includes a self-service kiosk for takeout orders, a branded mobile integration of 3rd party platforms directly with their POS, a real-time kitchen display system, robotic servers, and a QR code menu with a payment option for contactless digital dining. Additionally, they continue to improve different elements of the business.

The micro food hall consists of four micro restaurant concepts: Koharu Japanese Café (Japanese Bento), Yue Club (Dim Sum), Slurp Shop (Ramen), and Sachi Sushi (Sushi). Customers can choose from different restaurants and mix and match them. Also, their ordering method is seamless. Customers can enjoy a fully-automated dining experience by ordering and paying from the QR code on each table and having their food brought to the table by a robotic server, Bella. However, most customers order their takeout using the mobile order-ahead app, which generated more than 2700 active users since its launch in early 2021. Gilbert couldn’t hide his joy when Diablo Magazine featured the business shortly after its launch. The national TV show, Destination SF, also featured them on CBS/KPIX in 2022. Gilbert mentioned that he aims to continue building the SAGA brand and expanding selections in each micro concept. “We plan to expand our operation by adding a more upscale and trendy Japanese izakaya restaurant in one of our current spaces. Additionally, we plan to hopefully have multiple locations with some of our standalone concepts in a more mobile-friendly setup soon.”

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