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How Flame Broiler’s Daniel and Christian Lee are modernizing the Korean bowl concept their dad started

Nearly 30 years after the brand first launched, the brothers are helping to move it forward as Korean culture and cuisine explode in popularity.


When South Korean immigrant Young Lee opened the first Flame Broiler in California’s Orange County in 1995, Americans were not nearly as familiar with Korean culture and cuisine as they are today. Opening the Korean-inspired bowl concept as a destination for healthier food in a quick setting, Lee muted the Korean flavors and branding in order to appeal to a broader audience.

Fast forward nearly 30 years and Korean culture is everywhere, from K-pop band BTS to smash Netflix success “Squid Games.” And Lee’s sons, who grew up in the business, are helping to pave a path forward for Flame Broiler in that new reality.

As chief technology and marketing officer and chief operating officer, respectively, Daniel and Christian Lee have played key roles in Flame Broiler’s success for essentially their entire lives, working almost every job in the system as the franchise has grown to 137 locations. With an eye on the future and seemingly endless runway to leverage Korean cuisine’s newfound appeal, Daniel and Christian are working with their dad — as well as their mother, Sarah, and younger brother David — to modernize Flame Broiler and recognize new opportunities.  

The Lee brothers joined the latest episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches to talk about the ups and downs of growing up in a family restaurant business, plus how they’re working to incorporate more Korean culture as it becomes more and more popular with American audiences. 

In this conversation, you’ll find out why:

  • You should be a fan of your own product
  • Globally inspired concepts have a dial to turn when it comes to authenticity
  • Second-generation restaurateurs should be integrated into the business naturally, not forced
  • Younger generations are drawn to the potential for impact at scale
  • You should tap into your younger employees to adapt to branding and technology trends
  • Especially in a family business, you need to lean into each member’s unique strengths
  • Much like a family, a leadership team should be honest and empathetic with each other

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected]

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