Here's What Happened To Beyond Sushi After Shark Tank

Some would argue eating sushi without the fish would be like eating a cheeseburger without the meat patty. But is it possible to eliminate fish from the equation entirely and make vegan sushi? Could you make sushi using a "substitute" that still delivers the dish's iconic taste and allure? Israeli-American chef Guy Vaknin took it upon himself to answer these questions.

After fulfilling his military obligation in Israel, Vaknin began building a long and impressive culinary resume, from operating his family's restaurant to opening a catering business with his father. "I worked in every possible position in the restaurant business," Vaknin told his alma mater, The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). After completing his studies there, Vaknin worked as an executive chef for four years before braving the intense competition of Gordon Ramsey's "Hell's Kitchen." After opening his first restaurant in 2012 with his wife and business partner, Tali, he shifted his focus to vegetarian recipes, eventually sparking an idea to experiment with the concept of plant-based sushi. To help fund this concept, Vaknin appeared on Season 10 of "Shark Tank" in 2018, already flush with success from his six restaurant locations.

What happened to Beyond Sushi on Shark Tank?

Guy Vaknin arrived at the Tank prepared with impressive numbers that showcased Beyond Sushi's growth and success rate, as well as his depth of entrepreneurial knowledge. The chef asked the Sharks for an impressive $1.5 million investment in exchange for a 25% cut of the company's West Coast locations and a 5% cut of those on the East Coast.

Of course, even the best foods on "Shark Tank" have to undergo a taste test from the judges, which Vaknin was prepared to dish out. He served them his three best-selling vegan sushi rolls, including a tofu and mushroom roll, one with arugula and shiitake sauce, and another packed with fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, and roasted squash. Each Shark enjoyed his creative flavors and proceeded to grill him on his food prices, company history, investments, and sales figures. Vaknin also mentioned that the founder of Ruby Tuesday, Samuel Beall, owned 25% of Beyond Sushi and projected that his company would rake in a projected $5.6 million in sales by the end of 2018.

Despite most of the Sharks expressing doubts about West Coast expansion and the business model itself, Vaknin's offer was accepted by both Lori Greiner and Matt Higgins, who agreed to a 30% cut on the West Coast and a 15% cut on the East Coast. Vaknin planned to fund a few more restaurant locations throughout New York before eventually opening the West Coast's very first Beyond Sushi location in Los Angeles.

Beyond Sushi after Shark Tank

Beyond Sushi seems to be doing well for itself following Vaknin's "Shark Tank" appearance. He managed to land a deal that ranks next to some of the largest of the series, and the famous after-effect of appearing on the show sent Beyond Sushi's sales up by 40%. The guest investor who accepted the offer, Matt Higgins, told QSR Magazine, "But what really got me to invest was Chef Guy himself. He works incredibly hard and has limitless passion." Although the two Sharks had good intentions to help Vaknin's company grow, their goals didn't fully align in the end, so the chef decided to part ways with the investors and declined the partnership.

The company continued to flourish without any Sharks' help for eight years, and Vaknin eventually had seven total restaurants in operation. When the pandemic started, however, he was forced to close several locations permanently. He also laid off 100 employees and could only manage a few hundred sales each day. Delivery sales and outdoor seating kept the business afloat, and Beyond Sushi even bolstered the community by donating 10,000 meals to shelters and hospitals. When the pandemic waned, Beyond Sushi bounced back with determination, albeit with only two remaining restaurants located in Manhattan. Vaknin also chose to lean into his catering expertise to start City Roots, a catering business that brings his restaurants' fresh and sustainable cuisine to weddings, lunches, banquets, and other events.

Is Beyond Sushi still in business?

Beyond Sushi is still thriving today and offers an eclectic menu full of intriguing, unconventional sushi flavors, as well as other foods like gourmet soups, dumplings, noodle bowls, and desserts. It also offers other "impossible foods" like vegan fried chicken and meatballs. According to its website, all restaurants offer crafted cocktails, group dining menus, and "sophisticated dinner specials," as well as takeout and delivery services. An array of brand-new dishes like tuna poke bowls and new signature rolls were added to the menu in 2022. Beyond Sushi currently makes an annual revenue of $400,000 with the help of just under 30 employees.

In addition to his three Beyond Sushi locations, Vaknin has also opened three unique restaurants all around Manhattan that feature internationally inspired cuisines. These include an American comfort food bistro in Chelsea called Willow, a cozy Italian eatery in Gramercy called Coletta, and another Chelsea restaurant serving Mediterranean food called Anixi.

Yelp reviewers have shared their opinions on the restaurant, bringing attention to its impressive list of vegan-based options. One reviewer raved that, although skeptical of the concept, they had tried the eggplant nigiri and mushroom maki, and were left impressed by the "superb" textures and flavors.

"Perfect for those who want sushi but can't eat raw fish," another said. Overall, it seems as though many visitors are impressed with the concept of fish-less sushi.

What's next for Beyond Sushi?

While Vaknin's initial dream of expanding westward is currently on hold, his business is still making big moves in NYC. In December 2023, Beyond Sushi announced on Instagram that it would be permanently closing its Upper East Side chain, leaving only two locations open in Midtown Manhattan. Despite the closure, the post also announced that new restaurants are planned for the future.

Vaknin partnered with a plant-based company from Israel, Chunk Foods, to help share samples at Vegandale and is planning to reimagine one of Beyond Sushi's dishes with one of Chunk's meat alternatives. He's constantly on the hunt for unique foods to feature on his menus and is working on producing non-dairy, house-made cheeses to eventually serve in all his restaurants.

Not only has Beyond Sushi lived up to its name by trying to create some of the best vegan sushi in the country, but it also offers far more than just sushi with the addition of Vaknin's other standalone restaurants and menu options. "I wake up in the morning to do what I love," he expressed to ICE. That energy seems to be propelling him toward his business goals — with no need for a "Shark Tank" investment to do the heavy lifting.