Neon lights, crispy Korean-fried chicken and ice-cold tap beers: This is CnB, serving up signature specialties of crunchy Korean chicken burgers, Korean fried chicken and Korean corndogs from smooth paper wrappers. The business brains behind the Adelaide Korean-craze are hospitality business entrepreneurs and Le Cordon Bleu Adelaide alumni Steven Lee, Terry Hwang, Hyunwoo Kang, plus Kelsey O’Riley, who have opened CnB separate to their restaurant quartet’s familiar branding from the Plus 82 Group.
With months of anticipation and Korean cuisine enthusiasts lining up to order, Steven Lee gave us a taste of his life as a food business entrepreneur during the successful opening of CnB last month.
How did you come up with the name, CnB?
“We decided to call it CnB, for Chicken and Burger. Really simple, really catchy as well and easy to remember. This is the first store and we are aiming to open 2-5 more stores.
How did you make CnB stand out?
I know everyone’s dream in hospitality is to have their own franchise brand. So for CnB, we have taken it to the next level and because we want to make this a franchise, we are very much focusing on getting the system right so it’s easy for everyone to run and operate. We always wanted to franchise, and we did a lot of testing with Pocha [their first restaurant] selling Korean Fried Chicken. We were a part of the outdoor festival selling Korean corn dogs, chicken, and burgers as well, so we tested the market. We picked the right items for the franchise and model and decided to first open in Norwood because we thought it would be the best fit to get the attention and we found the right spot.
What was the opening day of CnB like?
For the opening on the Friday, we had ‘Korean Corndogs 1 + 1’, so buy one get one free for our grand opening promo and on the Saturday we gave out free burgers. We were busy right from the start and we had people waiting to come in which was really good to see. We had people lining up for the Saturday and by 11:30am we had about 30-40 people lining up which was really good. We had a very successful grand opening!
How did you promote it?
We mainly used our Instagram accounts. We have a lot of followers under our businesses so we went crazy with our social media and had lots of bloggers who came in beforehand who were promoting CnB on their pages as well. It’s all about social media these days!
What does a day in your life look like?
I try to get up around 7-8am and go to gym first thing in the morning, then have breakfast and begin the day. But on Fridays and Saturdays, I finish at 2-3 in the morning and Sunday is sort of sleep in. My day involves running around different venues. We now have a management team for each venue and I get reports from them, we are constantly communicating with each other for all venues. It never stops really. There’s lots of HR as well because now we have 40-50 staff across the outlets, so I do all the HR with my other business partner and busy running around. Time management is very important and planning ahead.
For the CnB grand opening it was a crazy week, me and my other business partner probably worked nearly 200-hours in a fortnight. It was non-stop and there was always something to do but you’ve got to do it for business and the results at the end. I am not going to do 80 hours now that everything is open and it’s all coming along nicely, but I usually clock about 60-70 hours on a normal week.
What do you do for self care?
I go to the gym. I encourage all my other management team as well to go to gym or exercise, even for half an hour because it’s going to help you in the long run and I feel more tired if I don’t do gym.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in business?
You have to face the reality that there is going to be an issue every day or a problem, so it’s just a matter of how you are going to solve it, fast. There are always unexpected things that happen, so you just have to be smart and be prepared for those problems and issues.
We had a lot of food in our fridges, so we decided to go out to the streets and hand out free meals to homeless people. - Steven Lee, CnB
Last year with COVID-19, it was hard. We were closed for about 8 weeks. Also, for the opening of CnB as well, we were smart with the commencement date. It got pushed back to October so everything just got delayed. I told the landlord that there’s no way we can open CnB during the pandemic because we have to concentrate on the other areas of the business, it was tough. We had all the rent and things we had to pay for so without the grants, we would have struggled quite a lot. But we got through, we planned well, we worked so many hours during the period as well because we couldn’t afford to pay any of the staff. However, we tried to support our international students as well during this time because they weren’t getting any support. And we tried to give out as much as we could to keep them going. We had a lot of food in our fridges so we decided to go out to the streets and hand out free meals to homeless people. We tried to do the right thing for the local community because we had a lot of support from the community.
What do you love most about what you do?
Passion. It is my passion. I love meeting new people, working with the right people and seeing the growth in what we’re building. We’ve been running businesses for about 4 years now and not just myself, but with my management team, the other directors as well we came along quite far and achieved a lot of things. That’s the satisfaction.
Why did you choose to study hospitality?
I always wanted to run my own business. I like customer service, meeting new people and I just found hospitality to fit this. My mum ran a café and restaurant, my dad has been in hospitality so I sort of grew up with this background and I had no doubt that I would do well in this business.
What is the most memorable thing that Le Cordon Bleu taught you?
A lot of things! I learned a lot from the placement [Work Intergrated Learning] as well whilst studying a Bachelor of Business (International Hotel Management). I think that’s a really good part of the course because it is very much hands-on work, so you have to learn from scratch. (I learned) a lot of things like HR, Accounting, and I value the relationship between Le Cordon Bleu and alumni. We try to support each other and you have been great supporting us.
What are your top three tips for opening a hospitality business?
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