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STARTUP/BIZ

S1 ep.1 - Four Seasons


Link to the deck: FOUR SEASONS


What's up party people!

This will be the first actual post of this project. Like I said, this is an area for me to brainstorm ideas that can help out small businesses (and other things as well in the later phase). The first guest restaurant of this project is <Four Seasons>, located in collegetown in Ithaca. I also grew up in Ithaca, and used to work here as a waiter in my last year in high school so I have some meaningful memories in this place too.

Front view of the restaurant


Overview

  • Four season is a Korean restaurant located in Ithaca, NY and has been operational for a few years
  • The restaurant serves Korean food (well, duh) as well as has grill for Korean BBQ (#KBBQ)
  • Recently it acquired a small laundromat nearby and expanded
  • It has about 3 star rating on both Google and Yelp
  • The majority of customers who come to Four Seasons are Asian (Korean, Chinese)
  • There are 2 other Korean restaurants (Ko Ko, Gangnam Station) that serve similar food

So this is a small-medium sized restaurant that you can see nearly in every college campus. It's not the most delicious place, but it's not terrible, so it's a common destination for people who want to eat Korean food.  But as a capitalistic person who believes in the faith that everybody should behave in a way to maximize the revenue, I do see there's a lot of potential to bring in more customers and make more money. Before I propose my take on ways to improve this restaurant, let's take a look at the weaknesses first.


Weakness

  • Four Seasons isn't hugely different from its competitors - Ko Ko & Gangnam Station
  • Although KBBQ grills are equipped, they aren't utilized heavily
  • In addition, the recent expansion hasn't been helping the restaurant much
  • Traffic during lunch is pretty weak due to the time it takes and the price
  • The interior of the restaurant is a bit quaint

This restaurant is run by my friend's father, a very experienced chef in Korean cuisine. Although he is an expert in cooking, he is not a business expert and I think the business isn't living up to its potential. The restaurant also went through an expansion and upgraded BBQ grills, but Four Seasons hasn't enjoyed a tremendous benefit from these yet

However, I do believe these weaknesses could be addressed fairly easily, without spending much money since upgrades have happened already. Here are some suggestions I want to make, and I'll explain them in more detail.


Suggestions

  • Start AYCE KBBQ menu 
  • Develop quick to go lunch menu
  • Heavily leverage SNS marketing (facebook, instagram)
  • Partner with local student orgs and Cornell dining to bring in new customers

To begin with the first bullet, I believe that introducing AYCE (All You Can Eat) KBBQ at Four Seasons will be a total game changer. As I've mentioned already, it had gone through a recent upgrade, so you don't have to spend extra money to get grills. Also, applying for permits to operate grills is a pain in the ass that normally takes a long time, but the restaurant has done all the heavy lifting already. 

These days, if you go to any big metropolitan cities in U.S, there are multiple restaurants that serves AYCE KBBQ. This is because it has gained so much popularity, regardless of customer's cultural background. Most of them find KBBQ as a very unique and filling experience where they can enjoy various type of meat (unlimited!) and can also try banchan (side dishes) they can't try anywhere else. For most of people, there's no doubt that AYCE KBBQ is a pleasant experience that is well worth its money. I firmly believe Four Seasons can enjoy benefits from this trend, especially so since this would be the only restaurant in Ithaca that can serve AYCE KBBQ.

Once the AYCE KBBQ menu is launched, it will attract american customers who haven't been to the restaurant, at least once to see what's good. If it turns out to be a positive experience which I believe it will, they will keep coming back. Also, if they find the food tasty, they would be inclined to try other menu items too, and this is an opportunity that Four Seasons has to leverage.

This naturally ties to the lunch menu at Four Seasons. Currently, it sells bento boxes and other popular Korean dishes, and they are all tasty. But the main issue is the fact that students are the busiest living things on Earth. They rarely have more than an hour of gap in the middle of their schedule to sit in,  and enjoy the full lunch hour. Also, anything north of $10 (Four Season's average lunch menu price) feels very pricey to them. I mean, think about it. If you get a cup of coffee afterwards for a little caffeine boost, you've already spend $13 for lunch, alone.

So I propose a quick, simple to go menu that's easy to make, and easy to eat. Menus like Bulgogi over rice, pork over rice with some Korean spicy/sweet sauce seem like a nice fit because they don't lose identity as Korean food and at the same time, are very convenient to eat. This (Meat/Tofu) over rice and can of soda at about $8 will be a nice option for students who crave asian food, but don't want to pay a million dollars for lunch.

As these menus gain traction in the market, partnering up with Asian student organizations will help the process further. They could ask students to advertise Four Seasons on SNS/flyers in exchange for a bit of discount. Or Four Seasons can host at-the-end of semester events like formals.  There could be a lot of iterations, but the idea is to partner up and utilize connections these student orgs have to reach out further and bring in more customers.


concluding remarks

So far, I've talked about some ways to improve current business at Four Seasons. I believe the actions that need to be taken aren't that burdensome for the owner. In fact, I told this idea to my friend, he talked to his father, and they both thought it was a good idea. The owner had AYCE KBBQ in his mind, but he's more inclined to do it with my proposal. He also thought introducing new convenient lunch menus is a very interesting idea. I personally with I could oversee/implement the operation, but now I'm tied to my work... But this has been a very interesting idea, and I hope to see improvements soon!


Taeyang You