Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Taka Tanaka, CEO of AUTEC Sushi Robot, located in Torrance, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

At AUTEC, we manufacture commercial sushi robots to supply equipment to foodservice businesses and academic institutions worldwide. Our products make high-quality sushi accessible and affordable to anyone, anywhere, by designing robots to assist all levels of sushi chefs and various types of businesses to successfully run at a lower operational cost. We pride ourselves in our products boosting efficiency, reducing error/waste, and improving accuracy. Our line also includes restaurant tech solutions (such as kitchen-to-table delivery systems) built to streamline operations through automation.

Our customers include (but are not limited to) restaurants, academic institutions, grocery, hospitality groups, food trucks, and central kitchens.
We are passionate about technology and how it can help the foodservice industry. However, our heart lies within the community of the foodservice industry, and we strive to provide the acknowledgment and support this community deserves and needs.

Tell us about yourself

My interest in the food and beverage industry began when I worked for my family's tea business in Japan. My mission to spread Japanese food culture through Japan-made products ignited when I attended college in the United States. The combination of the two led me to work at AUTEC, which created my passion for sharing the joy of sushi through sushi robots.

When I began with AUTEC, most businesses I came across did not view sushi robots as a need or a want. Through years of determination and tenacity, I established demand in the American market, which turned the brand around by increasing revenues by more than 500%. This success led to a 100% share of AUTEC USA then the opening of AUTEC Canada in 2018.

The grit of the foodservice industry is what motivates me every day to run a company that supports every individual in this industry. I'm constantly amazed and inspired by this industry's workers' and operators' grit, especially in the past few years.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is developing with Audio Technica Japan a sushi robot model specific for the American market. Over time I learned that, unlike Japan, the type of sushi consumed and preferred were primarily sushi rolls, not nigiri sushi. I determined that American businesses were lacking high-quality support in rice sheet formation.

Although we had a rice sheeter and wrapper model available at the time, it worked great for certain operations such as academic institution dining halls. That's when we brought to life Maki Maker ASM835A, the rice sheeter, in 2009. Since then, we've fine-tuned the product, and ASM865A has taken its place in 2015. I'm proud to say that ASM865A has become AUTEC U.S.A.'s flagship model, and to this day, it is our most popular product.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things that come with being a business owner is not turning your brain off. But to me, it's a necessity as a business owner and leader of your company to constantly think of things that impact the operation. For example, contemplating things like the well-being of your employees, what steps to take to keep growing your company, how to stay competitive, if our customers are still happy choosing our product, or if we need to be better. That said, you also need to think about your well-being by taking regular conscious breaks from things to provide the support and leadership your team needs.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Branding is a must: A solid vision of representing your company speaks volumes through consistent branding. It tells a story about who your company is, what it does, and what it believes in. Does this represent the brand the way I envisioned it, from product design to customer service?
  2. Believe in your ideas: If it's something you genuinely believe in, keep at it and don't let the naysayers get into your head.
  3. Leave the details to your staff: Know what's going on in your company's ongoing but don't sweat the details. You've surrounded yourself with a team that you trust for that.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Always remember that there's nothing wrong with failure as long as you learn from it and start again.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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