When the coronavirus pandemic forced Sushi 661 in Canyon Country to close for dining in, like many other businesses in the Santa Clarita Valley, owner David Song Cho began to struggle.
For a sushi restaurant that has prided itself on serving fresh food, things have been especially difficult in the closure, especially due to the atmosphere surrounding the enjoyment of sushi.
“We never thought we would have to do to-go orders,” Song Cho said. “Sushi is a, ‘Come inside and dine in’ type of food.”
With only one phone line, employees have been inundated, juggling phone orders, online sales and food preparation, yet sales are still low.
“People are trying to save money, not go out to eat,” Song Cho said. “We were doing $6,000 to $8,000 per day in sales, and we dropped to $200.”
Even so, while his business was struggling, Song Cho has been doing everything he can to help his employees, as he didn’t want to be selfish.
“I’ve been working for 22 years to get my store to where it is,” he said. “But, I was just thinking about everyone else.”
Song Cho found himself donating much of the unused rice he had to his employees and buying them canned food, ensuring their families were well-fed, but he still worried about his business.
“I was worried, but I told them not to worry,” he said. “And, I was thinking about how good they are treating our customers and how supportive they were.”
Thinking this may be the end of his restaurant, he thought, “If this is the way I’m going to go down, I want to do something good.”
That’s when he put in a call to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, hoping to donate enough food to feed the entire staff.
“I was thinking in my head 100-200 rolls, but they said they needed 400 (to feed the entire hospital),” Song Cho said.
Though unsure how he would be able to complete such a large order, he took on the challenge, going a step further to confirm ingredients and individually package each roll, so each health care worker would get their own.
“That’s why it took us longer,” he said, adding that he enlisted the help of six of his employees.
Once done, Song Cho donated a total of 415 of what he called “Henry Mayo rolls” to the hospital.
“I was knocked out for like three days after 400 rolls,” he said, chuckling. “That was probably the hardest challenge in all my career.”
As a member of Kaiser Permanente, Song Cho says he didn’t feel like his task would be complete without also donating to them.
This time, he made 200 Honolulu poke bowls, as they were a bit faster because he didn’t have to roll the rice, yet still gave each employee an individual portion.
“There’s a lot of food being wasted right now,” he said. “The whole world is struggling financially, but especially the food industry.”
Though a simple act, Song Cho felt better knowing the food was going to those who deserved it.
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