Julianne Holt-Kailihiwa, President and CEO of Sumo International Inc
In this issue we meet with Julianne Holt-Kailihiwa, President and CEO of Sumo International Inc who started her career as a young teenager working for an employment program for disadvantaged youth and evolved through a variety of careers since that has enhanced her growth mindset and desire to build teams with true inclusivity. She is a hands-on leader who is passionate about the F&B industry and talks to us about her passion and commitment to the Sumo Sushi & Bento family.
Tell us about your career leading up to being part Sumo Sushi & Bento?
I was active during high school doing administration jobs, running a front office and learning accounting at a local construction company during which I even ventured to the jobsites roofing homes and driving a forklift to get the job done during an industry crisis.
Soon after I joined Cisco Systems as an internet marketing coordinator and web programmer before I moved to Sumo Sushi & Bento, a unique family friendly restaurant working from ground up in 2000, supporting teams on site during busy periods. I love to bake and cook for the teams in operations and Sumo offices.
How has your experience been with the Sumo Sushi & Bento brand?
We are a Japanese cuisine pioneer in the region for more than 20 years and known for serving the best sushi in Dubai, GCC and EU. Staying ahead with innovation in the F&B industry. We have had challenges, but we are still here today and have a loyal following in our outlets.
What are your future plans for the company?
I have ambitious plans to enhance the Sumo dining experience with Digital Technology (Automation, convergence of experiences), Third Culture Cuisine (Globalization of flavors, fusion) and Conscious Dinning with sustainability, supporting dietary requirements and being environmentally friendly.
We always improve performance, look towards entering some exciting new regions and reopen stores that were closed during the pandemic. We treat each and every one with respect, to work towards positive outcomes for everyone. Not just the customers, the company or employees – as an organization’s long-term success is determined on the success it provides for others.
What drives your energy and passion day to day?
We treat each and every one with respect, to work towards positive outcomes for everyone. Not just the customers, the company or employees – as an organization’s long-term success is determined on the success it provides for others.
I come from a small island in the Pacific (Hawaii), so I am extremely thankful and grateful for the amazing experiences I have had building this brand. There really is no English equivalent translation for Aloha but I try my best to share the values of positiveness to reflect my roots.
My drive also comes from customers – we have some amazing top tier customers who on occasion dine with us twice in a day when they pop in for lunch and we find ourselves delivering their dinner later that evening.
What are your CSR initiatives?
We focus our CSR on initiatives that impact the environment and work towards being a responsible corporate community member. We were so thrilled we able to partner with Dubai Municipality last year to assist in a beach clean-up in which the entire team participated in.
What promotions are you running at the start of 2023?
We areknown for doing monthly specials with new product offerings for over a decade with new items every month. But we have just reformatted to an offering of weekly specials which is a huge undertaking given that the supply chain needs to adjust for any specialty ingredients, chefs must be trained and front of house staff also have to familiarize themselves with new dishes. We began the year with the Ramen festival which is popular, and we curated a matsuri Box which is great for family gatherings, office parties and other special celebrations.
How does the rest of the year look for you?
As a brand, we areexcited to move forward with expansions, ingredient and product specific collaborations and stay relevant and competitive with a focus on menu curation and product development. We want to focus on Digital Technology (Automation, convergence of experiences), Third Culture Cuisine (Globalization of flavors, fusion)and Conscious Dinning (i.e. sustainability, dietary requirements, veg forward, environmentally friendly). I have a dedicated talented team that drive all our initiatives successfully and for this I am grateful.