Wolt Merchant Stories: Sagit Laufer-Shaked, owner of Shi-Shi, or sushi in a roll, from Tel Aviv

Sagit Laufer-Shaked says she’s always had a thing for food and hospitality.

“Already as a small child, at the age of eight or nine, I used to cook my own lunch before my mother came home. And as a young teenager, I would wait for my parents to go out, so I could invite friends and serve them my own dishes inspired by TV shows and cookbooks. My mum hated it when I left all the dishes in the sink.”

Sagit got a degree in marketing and business management and wanted to go to New York to become a chef.

“But my dad said: ‘Being a chef is very hard work. Why don’t you first try to work with what you have learned?’ So I worked for a big advertising firm for several years.”

Learning the ropes

She kept wanting to enter the restaurant business but didn’t know how. Until her then-boyfriend, now husband, introduced her to the owner of the restaurant where he was a manager.

Ofra Ganor was an experienced businesswoman. We talked for twenty minutes. After a few weeks, she called me to ask if I wanted to manage a small restaurant that she had consulted. ‘Come and do this with me,’ she said. ‘I’ll teach you the ropes.’”

A few years later, Sagit got the opportunity to manage and co-own the second branch of a café called Streets. “They still have a salad with my name on it,” she says.

“In 2015, I was ready for another change. I wanted to do something innovative and creative. I’ve always loved sushi and decided to take it to a different dimension.”

Japanese with an Israeli twist

A word play on sushi, Shi-Shi is a roll, stuffed with sushi rice and lots of fresh ingredients.

Sagit: “You can have raw fish inside, but the best-selling dish comes with crispy chicken. Well, everyone in Israel grew up on chicken schnitzel with rice and salad, so that is probably a factor.”

“You can eat it with one hand,” Sagit adds, “just like a sandwich. This makes it ideal for people on the go and as an office lunch. It’s high-end food with fresh ingredients. Affordable, convenient, fast and technology-driven.”

“Nearly every order we get is online or at the self-service counter. Either way, people order with a computer. There are almost no mistakes because, in this phase of the process, there is no communication between people.”

“Shi-Shi is optimized for people on the go. You can sit at our place, but many customers take it away, and most order delivery.”

The office grapevine

“It’s not a nice thing to say, but covid changed the rules of the game in our favor. People were at home and wanted to eat.”

One change in consumer behavior that Sagit has noticed – perhaps partly due to the pandemic – is that people seem to be less interested in a complete dining experience. “Nowadays, when people go out, they prefer to go for a beer or cocktail and grab a bite on the side. Shi-Shi is ideal for that.”

Because it was a new concept, it took a lot of work to get an audience. And yet, that audience grew quite organically through word-of-mouth.

“It helped a lot that so many of our early customers were office people. At the office, everyone sees what you are eating. And if people are happy with what they get, that’s the most effective marketing you can ask for.”

Skeptical at first

“Wolt approached me a few months before they started operations in Israel,” Sagit tells. “At first I was hesitant. I didn’t quite understand the benefit of the platform and didn’t want to share my revenue with it.”

“It sounded all rather pastoral and romantic to me, with courier partners on bicycles and all that. I thought, OK, maybe that works in Finland, but Tel Aviv is so rushed and busy, with lots of cars and lots of people in the streets. I was skeptical.”

“But then they said: ‘You don’t need to change anything. Just do as you normally do. Only if you want, we will bring you more work. If you want to grow.’”

“I think Wolt is a bit similar to us. They are tech-based and very fast. We know how to prepare and package our food fast. They know how to deliver it fast and give the customer good service.”

The need for speed

Speed is of the essence, Sagit explains: “People don’t know that they are going to be hungry in an hour. Their stomachs start talking to them only a few minutes in advance. Hungry people want to eat now.”

“The platform has allowed Shi-Shi to scale in a way we couldn’t have done by ourselves. It has introduced new people to our food, whom we wouldn’t have reached otherwise.”

“Today, a big part of our turnover comes through Wolt. But I still have my own delivery guys as well, as a backup, to secure my independence. On rainy days, for example, Wolt may have fewer couriers available.”

Women entrepreneurs

“I had the good fortune of being inducted to the business by an experienced woman who knew her metier. My wish is that other women who have fulfilled their dream and achieved their goals will also give younger women a chance as Ofra did with me. Take a young entrepreneur under your wing. Teach, grow, share, pull, and push them forward.”

“To young entrepreneurial women, I’d like to say that if you have a dream, first go and work for someone else’s business. Learn the trade from the inside. Only after that can you be independent and take on the full responsibility of running your own business.”

“I want to live my dream not because of the money, but because it’s my passion. If you don’t fulfill your passion, you’ll live your whole life with something bugging you in the background. I don’t want to grow old thinking that I could and should have followed my dream when I was younger.”

This blog is a part of our International Women’s Day celebration. This year we’re giving spotlight to some of the amazing women-owned businesses on the Wolt platform. Stay tuned for the next blog post tomorrow! 💙