April 18, 2011

Quick-service sushi concept wins first hospitality business plan competition

Daniel Mann '11 and Sam Boochever '11, creators of Fushi Sushi, won first place in the Cornell Hospitality Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the School of Hotel Administration (SHA).

With Fushi Sushi, Mann and Boochever, seniors in SHA and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), respectively, are setting out to "redefine the sushi experience" and capitalize on the demand for healthy, quick-service fare. In the final round of the competition, which was held April 9, Fushi Sushi beat two other student teams to win a $15,000 cash prize.

Tom Ward, managing director of the Pillsbury Institute, and visiting lecturer Susan Cabrera chaired the inaugural competition, which involved 120 students from across campus. In November, 28 teams submitted executive summaries of their original business ideas, and nine were chosen as semifinalists. Those teams submitted full business plans and were narrowed down to three finalists.

"We could not be more pleased with the skill, creativity and enthusiasm demonstrated throughout the competition," said Ward. "All three teams in the final round were well-prepared and passionate about their concepts. The students put in a tremendous amount of hard work, and it showed."

The second-place prize of $5,000 went to Ward's Wine Shop and Dining Room, by Josh Aaronson, Nate Berkowitz, Alexis Donahue, Jessica Sackler and Sameer Seth -- all students in the Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) program. At Ward's, guests would be able to taste and buy wine in a retail wine store then bring it to the adjoining restaurant.

Third place and $2,500 went to Colette Chen, CALS '11, Elizabeth Convery, MMH '11, Mark Eckenroth, MMH '11, and Sam Thorpe, SHA '12, for Exclusive Route, a company that would offer fractional ownership of luxury recreational vehicles.

The teams pitched their business concepts to judges Lee Pillsbury '69, co-chairman and CEO, Thayer Lodging; Tony Capuano '87, executive vice president for global development, Marriott International Inc.; and John Metz '77, MBA '79, president, RREMC Restaurants LLC.

The Cornell Hospitality Business Plan Competition was made possible through a gift from Stanley Sun '00 and his parents, Dennis and Betty. Marriott International was the title sponsor of this year's competition. Other sponsors were Avendra, Chartres Lodging and HotelPlanner.com.

Ashlee McGandy is a writer at the School of Hotel Administration.