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Zadin Restaurant, San Francisco

We Are Family - Zadin

Truc Tran and Bao Phan signed up for San Francisco Small Business Development Services in 2006, approximately one year prior to launching their successful, upscale Vietnamese Restaurant, in March of this year, in the Castro.

Truc and Bao, or as they are affectionately called by the SBDC staff, our “What the Pho girls,” wanted to operate a mobile truck that would serve noodle dishes and soups. They were going to call themselves “What the Pho.” Truc and Bao, who are cousins and best friends, had grown up in the restaurant business and had some of their family’s treasured recipes that they wanted to continue offering, since their family restaurant had closed.

They began their SBDC journey with Lead Restaurant Consultant, Louise Dawson, who began working with them on the logistics of their concept. Louise suggested that there were not very many mobile trucks, serving food, in San Francisco and that there might be a reason for that and that permits may be difficult or impossible to obtain. She also suggested that there may be too much liability involved with serving hot soup dishes from a truck. It could easily spill onto a customer.

The next concept that Truc and Bao came up with was a deli. After working with Louise to learn how to cost out their menu and decide which San Francisco neighborhood would be best suited to support their product, Truc and Bao realized that a sandwich menu is not always that profitable, particularly since they would probably have to obtain a financial district location and the rents can be very expensive. Also, a deli menu did not leave room to incorporate their traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

After much research and due diligence, Truc and Bao settled on a small but upscale Vietnamese Restaurant where they could share their family recipes and extend, to the public and future customers, their core values of family. They decided to name their restaurant “Zadin” which literally is Vietnamese for “family.”

After completing the final version of their business and marketing plan, Truc and Bao were then ready for the next step. They met with SBDC Financial Consultant Tom Camerato to begin creating a financial plan for their business and to work on how much money they would need for start-up. With a successful plan in hand, they pitched their idea to a family investor who decided to fund the whole project.

“Truc and Bao are the most responsive clients I have worked with, thus far.” Says Louise Dawson. “They attended every one of the SBDC Restaurant Series classes, worked on every single project that I suggested, including completing their business plan, costing their menu, payroll schedules, training manuals, employee manuals and start-up checklists. They wanted to absorb as much information as they possibly could.” “I am not saying that I did not meet with some resistance though!” laughs Louise. “When we sat down to review the first menu draft, they handed me a document as heavy as War and Peace! It took several weeks to convince them to pare down their menu to a third of it’s original content. This is often a mistake with new restaurant owners. A large menu is too complicated to support by an inexperienced team in the kitchen and the expense and support of such a large inventory is problematic. They managed to work out a very thoughtful menu that highlighted their most passionate dishes.”

Evidence of their success of that menu can be seen on any foodie website. According to San Francisco Yelpers “…small and well thought out menu. How impressive to only need to put a half dozen entrees on a menu because they are so well considered. Despite the small menu, I actually had a hard time ordering.”

The interesting “twist” to their menu is that all of their product is gluten-free, which has been very well received. According on one Yelper “Gobs and gobs of gluten-free goodness…I love Zadin!”

After finding a perfect home in the Castro, Truc and Bao began working on their PR and marketing with SBDC PR Consultant, Susie Biehler. Susie helped the girls with their press-releases in order to get the buzz going about them. According to Truc and Bao, “Susie gave us guidance to navigate the maze of our marketing strategy.”

Zadin launched in March 2007 and has met with such a positive response from the neighborhood. According to one neighborhood regular “Delicious Food! The Castro needed a good Vietnamese place.” The cousins and best friends have produced an authentic Pho menu that includes basa fish rolls, lemongrass pork and many other delicacies.

When asked how their experience was with the San Francisco Small Business Development Center, their response was -  “The SBDC really taught us how to survive and how to focus. The Consultants gave us knowledgeable guidance and structure.” Despite their success, Truc and Bao would like to offer a little advice to start-up restaurant clients. “Our biggest obstacle has been the time and physical commitment. Also, if you are in partnership, make sure that you create job descriptions for yourselves and have your roles defined; oh yeah, and watch out for all of the deposits that you have to make between State Board of Equalization for your sales tax and all of your utilities deposits. Combined, it cost us over $15K.” Wise advice Truc and Bao, and congratulations on your continued success!

The San Francisco Small Business Development Center is located at 300 Montgomery Street, Suite 798. For more information, you can call 415.841.4050 or visit the website at www.SFSBDC.org

Zadin
4039 18th Street
San Francisco