Fishbowl opens in New York, company name change confuses Australians

Australians living in New York have been left confused after a popular Australian eatery popped up in the US under a different name.

Fishbowl – an Asian-inspired salad and protein bowl takeaway business – has opened its first outlet in the US.

However, its name has been changed to Thisbowl.

Many Australians living in The Big Apple were left stunned when they spotted the signage in New York’s NoHo.

“Surely this is Fishbowl but they couldn’t just name it Fishbowl,” one woman said in a clip shared on social media.

“I really hope it is, I’ve missed it.”

The store is set to open in mid-2024.

Nic Pestalozzi, one of three founders, said the company wanted to launch big in the US by cracking the New York market.

“New York is the absolute Mecca of retail in the world,” he said.

“We debated other cities. We thought, ‘should we go to Los Angeles or should we go to London’?

“But we said, ‘look, if we do that we will still need to prove that we can do New York, whereas if we go straight to New York and we make that work, then the world is your oyster’.”

Mr Pestalozzi, Nathan Dalah and Casper Ettelson, the founders of the salad bowl restaurant Fishbowl, opened their first store in Bondi Beach in 2016.

The friends wanted to build a brand and product around healthy living and their salad bowls are designed with Japanese, Malaysian, Southeast Asian and Chinese influences.

“The Bondi image isn’t something we’ve intentionally tried to convey,” Mr Pestalozzi said.

“It’s just very much where we started. The brand is who we are and the lifestyle that we lead just has that sort of Australian healthy outdoor feeling.

“We want to create an authentic brand experience.”

He’s confident the Fishbowl experience will carry over the America, despite the name change.

The entrepreneur believes the casual bowls are ready to compete in New York’s ultra-crowded food space.

“Our product is definitely up to the challenge,” he said.

“We wanted it to be something with maximum appeal and the fact it’s healthy, super fresh, very delicious and at great price points, the product by itself actually has a point of difference in the market in New York in terms of that quick casual healthy bowl market.”

Offerings from the menu include a coconut chicken bowl with cabbage, carrot, red onion, coriander, lemon olive oil dressing, crispy shallots and a bowl called the O.G., which offers salmon sashimi or poached chicken with kale, beets, edamame, red onion, roasted sesame dressing, seaweed salad, tobiko, crispy shallots.

The bowls are all priced below $20, which is a main facet of the company’s mission to help people make healthier life choices.

Fishbowl has expanded rapidly since 2016, with 46 stores now open across Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

“Our fit-out costs are quite significantly lower than typical hospitality fit-out costs,” Mr Pestalozzi said.

“We have a central kitchen and then we produce all of the food daily and we deliver it to the stores daily, so when we fit out a venue, we’re really paying for a few fridges and the furniture whereas a typical restaurant or a hospitality business is paying for kitchen equipment and they’re almost double the investment just to open one store.

“The repayments and the payback period on our stores is quite fast and that allows us to be more profitable and that allows us to open more shops.”

Mr Pestalozzi said the business had rocketed past $50m in revenues in the past 12 months and would target $100m for 2025, with an expansion rate of about eight new stores a year.

“That gives us enough time to train staff, to fund the growth and just to ensure we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” he said.

Global expansion beyond New York is also firmly in mind, but Mr Pestalozzi says the team followed a “store one” mentality, or achieving excellence store-by-store rather than thinking about their aspirations too broadly.

For the moment, that means cracking America through 65 Bleecker.

“I think it’s going to be like the ultimate Fishbowl flagship so we’re really excited,” he said.

“We’re putting a lot of you know hearted soul into this one store.”

Fishbowl’s initial expansions were self-funded but private Australian investors have come on board in the past two years.

The company has also attracted interest from American investors but Mr Pestalozzi said the trio wanted to keep it “local” for now.

“We say we’re sort of empowering people to make healthier lifestyle choices, so it’s not just about our product,” he said.

“We’ve always tried to build a brand and an experience around the product.

“People want to feel better.”

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