Sushi food truck serves premium tuna

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The at maguro’s food truck is seen in Kishiwada, Osaka Prefecture.

KISHIWADA, Osaka — A former manager of a conveyor-belt sushi chain restaurant has begun operating a sushi food truck in Kishiwada, Osaka Prefecture, that sells high-grade maguro, or tuna.

Food trucks are becoming a common sight thanks to growing public reluctance to eat out amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The sushi food truck, having grabbed the spotlight for its novelty of serving perishables, continues to receive requests to appear at events and such.

Tomoo Nishimoto, 39, from Hannan, Osaka Prefecture, worked part-time at a Western-style restaurant while he was a student in college and joined them after graduating.

Nishimoto, who dreamed of becoming a company president ever since he was a teenager, said he began to think about running his own restaurant.

After working about 3½ years at an advertising firm’s sales division, Nishimoto returned to the restaurant industry. He honed his skills at a conveyor-belt sushi chain and other food establishments before becoming the manager of a sushi chain restaurant.

When the number of customers at the restaurant plummeted due to the pandemic and takeout service became the main source of revenues, he heard customers saying that they didn’t even want to wait in line inside the restaurant. “Then I thought, if customers don’t want to come, I myself should go out and serve them,” Nishimoto said. He believed that people would come and buy meals at food trucks since they wouldn’t have to worry about infection as much while outdoors, and decided to offer a menu including bluefin tuna. Nishimoto also decided to hold tuna-cutting shows, which were popular at the sushi chain.

The biggest challenge was satisfying hygiene guidelines to handle raw food in cars with limited equipment.

Through many consultations with the public health center, he decided to eliminate all gas appliances inside the car to prevent the temperature from rising. Having spent about ¥2.4 million, he ordered a food truck with a refrigerator and water supply. Finally, he got a permit from public health authorities to run the truck.

He named the food truck “at maguro,” playing on the expression “at-home” in the hopes of offering a relaxing atmosphere spiced with a fun and dazzling bluefin tuna-cutting show. In June, he started operating the truck on a trial basis on his days off from work.

Nishimoto was able to keep prices down thanks to lower fixed costs compared to those of conventional stores, such as rent and labor expenditures. A tuna donburi bowl of rice topped with one slice each of otoro (most fatty), chutoro (medium fattiness) and two slices of lean akami, as well as a set of sushi are offered for ¥1,296 each.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A donburi bowl of rice topped with slices of otoro and other bluefin tuna meat, one popular menu item of the food truck

The reputation of his tuna-cutting shows, held once or twice a month, spread through social media and word of mouth, attracting requests for the food truck to operate at events.

As it gradually became difficult for Nishimoto to satisfy both fulfilling food truck requests and working as a restaurant manager, he quit the sushi chain where he was employed for roughly 11½ years at the end of September to focus on his food truck business.

Now at maguro has repeat customers who buy its food almost every day and Nishimoto started running another food truck in late October. “I can go [and serve sushi] anywhere with a food truck, so I want to increase the number of customers who come back,” Nishimoto said.

The dates, times and locations of the truck can be seen on his Instagram account (@atmaguro).