A new Japanese restaurant in the heart of Ballarat’s CBD hopes to breathe life into a troubled section of the city’s iconic thoroughfare.
A planning permit is being sought for a property at 30-32 Sturt Street for Kosaten, a 47-patron restaurant inspired by the classic Japanese sushi train experience where sushi is delivered to tables on a conveyor belt.
The lower end of Sturt Street has been bedevilled by long-term vacancies and uncertainty over landmark buildings including the notorious Norwich Plaza. But there may be good news ahead for other key locations like the Unicorn Hotel and this new restaurant opposite.
Kosaten puts a twist on the experience. Customers order through a tableside tablet, their meals are cooked fresh and delivered by Japanese-made sushi trains.
The formula has proved successful in Hobart and Launceston and owner Kaz Kojima hopes to expand the brand to regional Victoria.
Mr Kojima said the restaurant’s formula negated one of the largest disadvantages of the traditional sushi train restaurant.
“Sometimes, the issue with sushi trains is they have to pre-make a lot of food and have a certain amount on the train to make it look good, but there’s not enough traffic,” he said. “The food isn’t fresh enough and people won’t take that food. It’s a bad cycle when there’s not much traffic.
“[At Kosaten], people can sit and enjoy customer service, order what they want from the iPad and we deliver fresh cooked food to the customer. It’s just like a restaurant but carried by a machine.”
By expanding to regional centres rather than capital cities, the goal is to bring Kosaten’s unique experience to places that don’t have as much opportunity to try Japanese cuisine.
The hope is the new restaurant will also ignite a reinvigoration in a section of Sturt Street home to several vacant shopfronts.
Mr Kojima said part of the attraction to the location was the heritage building.
“I really love the heritage buildings and thought it would be attractive for us to open up. We’ll have the heritage outside and then inside it’s completely different,” he said.
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“It’s a beautiful street, but I didn’t see many people around. I’m trying to focus on fostering a connection with the local community and appreciate their feedback and apply that to our service.
“According to the feedback, we try to provide the best service and a funky and fun experience so I hope more and more people will come into the area and more shops will open and make Sturt Street more vibrant.”
Colliers International senior executive Charles Kennedy said new restaurants like Kosaten follow a pattern of service-orientated businesses replacing retailers on Sturt Street as part of its continuous evolution.
“Sturt Street always has vacancies. There are tenants that come and go. Probably what we’ve seen over the last five to seven years is a change from retail to service-orientated businesses,” he said.
“Of course, one of the biggest areas is the food businesses that have been coming in. Ballarat has really evolved its food scene.”
Mr Kennedy said Sturt Street has several vacancies, many of which were caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, deals were being done behind the scenes to bring new franchises into Ballarat.
“We’ve got a Melbourne food group coming up to take a look at [a property] next week as a food venue. They are a franchise and they’re looking to expand,” he said.
“We have an offer that’s in negotiation from another food franchise [at The Unicorn] that has got some exceptional ideas in terms of what they want to do with it.
“We’ve got a lot of these nationals that are now reestablishing their interest in going to the regional centres and bringing their food offerings to cities like Ballarat… we’re seeing a lot of that and Kosaten is a perfect example.”
Kosaten Ballarat is expected to open at 30-32 Sturt Street between April and May this year.
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