Seven Chan is one of the owners of KSP Restaurant Group, him and his partner Ken started their restaurant group in 2016 and currently have 20 plus restaurants around the country with about 8 in metro Atlanta including award winning poke burri and lifting noodles ramen. The duo make traditional asian food with a twist.
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What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- About Umbrella Bar
- Exciting Korean Dishes / Drinks / Specialty Games and programming
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio brought to you by on pay Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:24] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor on pay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories today on Atlanta Business Radio. We have an old friend, seven, who is the managing partner chef with the KSP Restaurant Group and now Umbrella Bar. Welcome, seven.
Seven Chan: [00:00:47] Hi everyone. Always good to be back. One of my favorite shows to be on.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:51] Well, thank you very much. I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. The last time you were on, I guess was pre-pandemic and you had just launched Feast that food hall in the battery and you were still kind of, you know, building your franchises up with, I think, Pokey Beer, Pinkberry.
Seven Chan: [00:01:12] Yeah, absolutely. So our brands are Pocky Berry and Little Noodles Ramen. Those are two of the most award winning restaurants in the city of Atlanta. And Pokey Burger is actually the most award winning restaurant in the city’s history of all time, which is absolutely amazing. And we’re currently up to about 20 to 30 locations for those around the country. Our home is always Atlanta, and this is where we’re launching the two new concepts that I’m here to talk about today.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:39] All right. So let’s get into it. One of them is Umbrella Bar. We want to talk about that one.
Seven Chan: [00:01:46] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that one is just so exciting for us. And I want to say that’s probably the more interesting story for the listeners. But yeah, we’re opening umbrella bar at Ponsonby Market, which is of course a huge landmark in the city. It’s tied into the Beltline. There’s like whether you’re a tourist or local, somebody just wants to go somewhere to hang out. It’s one of the best locations in the city, so we’re absolutely so excited to have it. And this is going to be our first our first bar and this is our first night market concept, which is really exciting for us.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:18] So now how did the concept come about?
Seven Chan: [00:02:22] Okay. So actually this is something that we’ve been working on for years, but we’ve always been just so busy opening the other pokey breweries and lifting the little Robinsons that the pandemic was actually kind of a blessing in disguise. As far as Umbrella Bar, it kind of gave us a chance to bring something to reality that we’ve just kind of been imagining forever. So for everyone, that’s kind of listening. But having hasn’t heard the other episodes, it’s me and my partner Ken from KSP Restaurant Group, and every year we always go on a different trip to Asia and try to experience like new food, cool things. And I want to say maybe five or six years ago we got a chance to go to Korea and we had a chance to go to all the local night markets. And this is a completely different experience, a different kind of feeling and something that Atlanta really doesn’t have. And we’re so excited to bring it here.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:08] So now when you see kind of a concept in an Asian country, like kind of in the wild there, and you you say, okay, we’re going to bring this to America or to Atlanta to test it. How so? What are you kind of looking for? What are your kind of do’s and don’ts if somebody who’s listening is out there trying to get inspiration from around the world?
Seven Chan: [00:03:32] I guess I would say anything that we get excited about is something that we want to share with other people. So imagine for people that haven’t been to a night market. You’re kind of walking down a lot of these places. That’s a little tiny alley and there’s maybe ten, 15, 20 little kiosks. And they each have like their own little specialty. So like for Ponce, we see this as a great opportunity to kind of combine that in a way that people can get things that are grab and go food on sticks, things are weird, different. Everyone just kind of try a little bit of everything. So I think for us it’s kind of creating an experience and finding not just the food, not just like the concept, but a whole experience that you can provide to people in a new way. And if you well, if you want to, if it’s something you’re excited about, it’s something that hopefully other people will love and be excited about, too.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:20] But when you go and experience that like in Korea and you see that happening kind of in a street market kind of experience, how does that translate into a pond city market? Like how do you take that kind of concept and say, okay, we’ve got to fit this into this kind of a space inside of this kind of ecosystem, that pond city market is.
Seven Chan: [00:04:43] Yeah. And so we actually have been waiting or trying to find our space upon the market for about three or four years now. And honestly, it’s been kind of a back and forth of trying to find the right thing that they’re looking for and trying to find the right thing that we would fit into that environment. And we actually have a really unique space here at Ponds that actually lends itself to the concept of a night market. So if you guys have been there before, if you guys haven’t, really easy way to describe it. It’s kind of like a food hall and we’re in the new expansion side of the food hall. So it’s really exciting. And for a lot of food halls are just a kiosk, the standalone place. But for us we have essentially two little kiosks that are across from each other and it feels kind of like a little alleyway, as if you’re walking down the street and Japan and Korea and you kind of get that feeling that you’re just surrounded on both sides by something that is engulfing, you know, you feel like you’re in it. And that’s the experience that we want to provide there, where if you’re just a standalone store, if you’re just one little booth, you kind of don’t get that. But for us here, we have two booths or two kiosks and a little alleyway that you can actually get to walk down. So in a way, it was we felt like it was kind of destiny that we were able to combine these two things.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:54] Now, when you’re building out something like this, are you always looking at it as, okay, this is something we’re testing in order to franchise this down the road? Or is this something that’s going to live as kind of a, you know, a concept that’ll be just there at Ponca City?
Seven Chan: [00:06:09] So that’s actually a really good question. So, I mean, a lot of times we build something and we kind of try to see what happens and and like for Pokey Brewery and Lifting Noodles, we kind of always knew that in a way we were leaning toward franchising, but with Umbrella Bar, we’re really excited that we feel like this is a standalone thing. This is something this is like a passion project. This is like something that we’ve been working on, experimenting with the food, trying to just get everything right, including like the cocktails, the drinks, the signature things. And for this, I would say this is going to be a standalone one out of the only thing in the whole city. And we and this will probably be the only one that we have.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:46] So now another concept you’re working on is the barbecue fried chicken. Can you talk about that?
Seven Chan: [00:06:53] Yeah, absolutely. So pork fried chicken is another Korean concept and our second Korean concept, and that will be opening in the next few weeks and that will be the Parkside Complex on Roswell Road here in Atlanta. And it’s a really fun and different one for us. We’re kind of getting to experiment with something that I won’t say. I love it. I’m sure you love it. Everyone loves fried chicken. So we’re bringing our own version of Korean fried chicken here. And what’s kind of cool and different about this space is it’s also not a standalone restaurant, it’s not a food hall. It’s this is our first restaurant that we’re building inside a really tiny shipping container. So it’s kind of a fun kind of thing. It’s kind of different. If you drive by it, you’re kind of like, What is this weird random thing in this parking lot? But that’ll be our our fried chicken concept and it’s kind of cool and it’s kind of different and it’s just kind of like what we normally do where it’s traditional Asian food with a twist.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:46] So now that’s going to be in Sandy Springs, right?
Seven Chan: [00:07:52] Correct. So it’s right on Roswell Road and it’s for people that are local, it’s right by the Whole Foods.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:58] And then that is an interesting idea to put things inside of shipping containers. Did they come to you with that idea or was that something that you kind of drove to them because you’re not that’s not going to be the only shipping container there in that space. Right.
Seven Chan: [00:08:14] So there’s actually going to be two shipping containers. And we’ve been kind of pitching this idea to a bunch of different people. And it’s it’s also Jamestown, who is also the owner of Pond City Market. So they were really excited to kind of implemented. So I would say it was kind of like a collaboration of things that they’re looking for and things that. We’re looking for. But what’s really exciting from us, for us from a business point of view, is what we’ve seen during COVID and even now, like inflation, has gone up to build restaurants to get supply. It’s kind of do all these things. So our idea was let’s build the tiniest restaurant we can in the shipping container, and if we do grow in franchise it, we can literally build it here and then ship somebody, an entire restaurant in a different city, a different state really anywhere in the world. And it’s kind of cool and kind of interesting. So this one, we’re definitely planning, it’s a franchise and franchising will be available within the next few months and we’re really excited to kind of take something in that very different. And both things are kind of very different, very new and very special to us, but for different reasons and also kind of like accommodating for COVID and try and just adapt to the world that we live in today.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:22] So is this I mean, are restaurants inside shipping containers? Is that happening around the country that we’re just not aware of? Because I don’t remember seeing a lot of these concepts.
Seven Chan: [00:09:33] So there are a few that we’ve kind of seen and visited for inspiration. We went to a little container park in Birmingham not too long ago. We went to one in Charleston not too long ago, but it is still a relatively new thing and it’s a new thing for, I guess, us to kind of talk to landlords and have a different kind of thing to pitch to them, something different to talk to them about. But so far everyone has been super excited and just comparing building a shipping container to building a full restaurant, it’s a fraction of the price. It’s dramatically easier and I’ll give a shout out to the people that build our food truck south. They’re absolutely amazing. Small, local, Atlanta based business that we’re hoping to grow with as this concept grows.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:13] Now, is this kind of the evolution of food trucks, you think?
Seven Chan: [00:10:19] I hope so. I mean, honestly, I would really hope that this is something that can grow. But the kind of way that we like to be experimental, this is kind of like a cool, fun experiment. We know the food is going to be great. We know the customer service is going to be great. And we’re hoping that this is kind of a way that we kind of innovate or adapt our business model to being in more places for less overhead and kind of getting people a chance to get into business a lot easier now.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:47] Is it going to be kind of a walk up counter experience or is it a drive through?
Seven Chan: [00:10:52] So we currently have a walk up pickup window and there’s actually a little seating area outside and people kind of grab and go, but you’re also welcome to sit and hang out. And because it’s kind of like in a little shipping container in the middle of a parking lot, we’re planning to do a lot of different programing events, kind of like cool stuff because we kind of have all this space that we normally wouldn’t have to play with otherwise.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:16] Oh, that’s very innovative and very creative. Did you this concept, did it come about because you saw other kind of container parks and you’re like, Hey, why isn’t there one here? Like, what spurred you to kind of experiment in this way?
Seven Chan: [00:11:34] That’s a really good question. I guess for us, we have always been kind of used to growing from something really tiny. So if anyone has been to our original restaurants in East Atlanta, you’ll see that our our smallest footprints are about 150 square feet. And for most restaurants, that sounds like that’s like their closet, their office, their bathroom space. But we’re kind of used to growing out of these small things. So we’ve kind of got the idea for the shipping container. We thought, Oh, this is perfect for us. So we can’t really necessarily have people that are too tall or too big working in there, but it’s going to be for us. We’re kind of used to this environment and we see when you grow from something small, it’s a lot easier to kind of adapt and scale. Or if you start with something really big and trying to work your way down, it’s generally a lot harder.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:20] So when is that going to open?
Seven Chan: [00:12:23] So we’re hoping that that’s going to be in the next few weeks. So for you chicken, it’s going to be in the next few weeks and then Umbrella Bar will be in about a month, month and a half now.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:34] Talk a little bit about kind of evolving into a to becoming a franchisor, a franchising. A lot of people aspire to be franchisors, but to actually pull it off to the extent you have and to build the portfolio that you built is very impressive. Can you talk to the listener out there who might have a concept of their own that, you know, maybe they’ve been thinking about franchising? Is there are some do’s and don’ts that you would kind of advise somebody who is a restaurant owner.
Seven Chan: [00:13:05] Yeah, absolutely. So. Our parent company, UK Restaurant Group, which is the Life Partner Academy, we actually do help small businesses become franchises as well. I guess what we saw when we started is there’s not a lot of people to help you. You know, there are people that are kind of at the same level, just kind of starting out mom and pops. And then there are people that are have like hundreds, thousands of restaurants and hundreds of millions of dollars. And there really aren’t too many people that you can talk to. And on that side, if you’re just a small person. So, I mean, for us, we do help people become franchisees. We do help them grow and we help consult. But as far as general advice goes, I would say it’s all about the customer experience, it’s all about the food, it’s all about the things that you can be passionate about. And in the same way, that’s how we pick restaurants. That’s how we pick franchised franchisees as well. So I think any time that you have something good, people are going to come up to your store or come up to your cashier or your manager and say, hey, you should be a franchise, hey, I want to be involved and that kind of thing. So what I tell people is a lot of planning, it’s a lot of preparation and kind of just ticking all the boxes of doing the right things and there aren’t really shortcuts, but it’s always good to have a mentor, always have good to have someone that can guide you and somebody that can kind of help you through it and just kind of in a really abbreviated way. There’s a lot of paperwork to be done, a lot of filing, a lot of compliance things, and it’s definitely great to have somebody that knows how to do those things walk you through it.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:29] Now, is there any kind of red flags like how do you know that if a concept is good enough to franchise, is it good enough? Like, Oh, we’re slammed all the time. Is that enough information to know that it’s going to work in another market or is it do you have to have like a really good operation in terms of documenting an operation so you know that it can be you can transfer the knowledge.
Seven Chan: [00:14:53] So for us, I think a lot of people ask us what it takes to be a good franchise. And, you know, it’s such an open ended question. What I try to tell people is we try to break things down in a way that is as simple as possible. So the two main things that we look at when we think about franchising someone or franchising something ourself is the brand, and that’s what’s there online presence or social media, their reviews, those kind of things. And we look at the business model and almost every restaurant in the world is supposed to be following a very similar formula. Covid has kind of thrown it off, but if everyone is following the correct ratios, that’s a really good sign that they’re good to franchise. And a basic kind of rule of thumb is your rent and bills is around 10 to 15% of your sales. Your food cost is 20 to 30%, your labor is 20 to 30%, and you have a decent amount of profit left over. Your average franchise in America is somewhere between 12 and 17% profit. So if you’re beating that ratio, you probably have a good chance to kind of succeed if you want to scale that model.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:55] And then one of the advantages of working with an experienced group like yours is that you already have systems in place that can help accelerate the process.
Seven Chan: [00:16:05] Absolutely. So, I mean, we have resources that can help from branding, marketing, real estate development, paperwork. And I try to tell people we’ve just made all the mistakes we’ve kind of learned and we can do. People that work with us don’t have to make those same mistakes again.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:23] And then the concepts that you be willing to help other people, are they only food concepts or are they only Asian food concepts?
Seven Chan: [00:16:31] So honestly for us, we want to just find things that we’re excited about, things that we want to work on and grow into for the long term. So like when you’re franchising is not something that you technically you can work on that project for a few months, for a year. But I think anyone that’s kind of in the same position as me who does this for a living, they would say it’s really a five year, ten year or 20 year thing that you work on with somebody. So if you’re going to work on something for that amount of time, make it something that you believe in, something that you’re passionate about.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:03] So if somebody wants to learn more about KSP or one of your concepts, what’s the is there a website that where they all live or is it each one? You got to find them individually.
Seven Chan: [00:17:15] It’s a little bit of both, depending on the structure of the company or each individual company. But I want to say you can find out more about us at KSP Restaurant Group dot com at Pokey Brewery Lifting Noodles Rom-Com walk you atl dot com and umbrella bar atl dot com well seven.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:35] Thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Seven Chan: [00:17:40] Yeah, absolutely. And then just lash out. Follow us on our Instagram. And it’s just the name of YouTube or our restaurants or companies. And if you guys come through and mention that you guys are on the show, we’ll try to give you some kind of special discount or some kind of special prize.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:54] Well, thank you, as always. And once again, congratulations on all the success.
Seven Chan: [00:18:00] Absolutely. Always a pleasure.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:02] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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