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Michael Chon is the CEO of Kijung Hospitality Group, which operates seven locations of Baekjeong, a Korean barbecue concept with six locations in Los Angeles and one in New York City.
Those were great locations before the pandemic hit, and Korean barbecue was a booming concept, but since both cities were COVID-19 hotspots for a while, they became much more challenging places to do business, and the high-touch nature of grilling at the table meant adjustments needed to be made to do it safely.
In fact, Chon closed all seven United States locations of Baekjeong for three months, reopening in late spring with limited capacity at three locations in Los Angeles.
Now all seven restaurants are up and running, with new service styles, as well as more takeout items in improved packaging, along with cards accompanying each delivery to explain how to eat Korean barbecue.
“To be honest with you, there’s no right way or wrong way of eating Korean barbecue,” Chon said. “We try to remove some of that intimidation factor, for the customer to just dig in and eat, and find the best way that [they] like it.”
In this podcast, Chon discusses the adjustments Baekjeong has made during the pandemic, as well as factors that have contributed to Korean food’s popularity, including the Internet, healthy-dining trends and K-Pop.