The Fast Casual Nation Podcast offers exclusive interviews with experts ranging from top chefs and brand makers to executives and restaurants who work in one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry. In this episode, I talk with the founder and chief executive officer of Chi'Lantro, Jae Kim about building a brand, giving back to the community and marketing a fast-casual brand. Chi'Lantro, the name is a combination of the words kimchi and cilantro and is based in Austin, Texas.
Kim, born in Seoul, Korea moved to the United States when he was twelve years old and grew up in California. After a few attempts in hospitality that were not that successful, Kim started a food truck business in 2010. He had maxed out his credit cards and utilized his savings of 30K to follow his dream of owning a Korean Mexican fusion food truck. In the beginning Kim shares that it was a challenge getting customers. After making adjustments to his location, he was able to bring the traffic to his food truck and get menu recognition.
In 2016, Kim after many attempts was selected to be on the show Shark Tank. Although Barbara Corcoran made him an offer, ultimately he did not accept the deal. Kim has successfully been able to grow the brand without raising capital.
In growing the brand over the last twelve years, Chi’Lantro has gone from a food truck model to opening ten brick-and-mortar fast-casual stores. They have created a menu that has resonated with the crowds including The Original Kimchi Fries that have become famous in their own right.
We talk about community, it is extremely important to Kim as well as his Chi’Lantro team. It was how they made it through Covid. He shares the story of an employee that started with him twelve years ago and today, she now runs one of his very successful brick-and-mortar stores.
To hear Kim talk about Chi’Lantro’s core values, the expansion plans and his top 3 tips for opening a restaurant check out this episode of Fast Casual Nation or tune in on Apple Podcasts.