Photo by Juan Carlos Lara.

Kiwamu Katayama is a man who loves challenges and sees them as opportunities for growth. During the pandemic, those opportunities abounded. 

Katayama, who goes by the nickname “Q,” first moved to San Francisco in January 2020 to be the general manager of the Spice Jar, an Asian restaurant on the corner of Bryant and 23rd streets. 

Business was great, and then, yes, the pandemic. 

“It was a real struggle to survive,” Katayama said.

The 49-year-old suddenly had to reach a wider audience to make up for the loss of income. He started an Instagram for the restaurant, and signed up for DoorDash and UberEats. 

“I talked to people who said we needed more vegetarian options, more vegan options, so I changed the menu,” he said.

While Katayama had always made a habit of analyzing sales data, he became more decisive about changing the menu if the data showed something wasn’t selling. 

“I removed, like, 30 percent of the menu and added 30 percent new menu items,” Katayama said. 

Among the new additions are Brussels sprout tempura and vegetable spring rolls, he said. 

New to the city, suddenly making friends also became impossible. ”It’s been just work and home, work and home,” he said. Nowadays, his customers are his friends and he’s fine with that.  

“I enjoy, struggle, I enjoy that, it raises my motivation,” Katayama said. 

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Juan Carlos Lara covers business and development in the Mission. Juan Carlos, a San Francisco State alum, is as much a photographer as he is a writer and previously worked as the campus news editor at Golden Gate Xpress, SF State’s student paper.

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