Eight years after opening its doors in the burgeoning city of Portland Maine, the Kon Asian Bistro has remained relevant in the face of a restaurant revolution.
The once-quiet restaurant scene now brims over with hundreds of pubs, diners, and eateries. It has become such a mecca that the Boston Globe newspaper declared in 2014 that a “boom” was taking place in the small city. And what was once an undiscovered fishing community was suddenly a big draw for foodies of all levels and tastes.
“When we opened in 2009, we were one of the first to offer Japanese cuisine in a small-population space that didn’t have many restaurants,” says Kon Asian Bistro General Manager Chris Chan. “There weren’t that many restaurants, and we saw it as a big opportunity.”
In the face of growing competition of today’s Portland scene, Kon Asian Bistro keeps very Zen, staying the course, but offering fresh new menu items and quality service to keep its patrons coming back, again and again
In this week’s Boxerbrand Recipe for Success Q&A, Chan offers his perspective on keeping his restaurant relevant in the face of competition.
Q: What challenges have you faced as a longtime restauranteur, and how have you overcome them?
The restaurant business is very tough. We opened in 2009, and every year in Portland we have more and more restaurants opening. We have over 600 restaurants in this area; it’s easy to open up, but it’s not easy to survive.
We keep our customers coming back by offering great service, cleanliness, and great new dishes. We have a small population in Portland, only about 100,000 people, so we focus on being unique. We offer Japanese cuisine, sushi, teriyaki, and we have 16 hibachi tables where the chef prepares the meal right there.
Q: What’s your most popular menu item?
We have so many! Our sushi and American Dream roll, (avocado, shrimp tempura topped with spicy lobster and kani with creamy sauce), is very popular. Our Asian dishes, such as Szechuan beef is also really good, and we have a great hibachi bowl where the chef cooks right in front of you, and it’s very entertaining.
Q: Before you were general manager, you worked every job in the restaurant industry.
I started in the business 15 years ago as a busboy and I worked hard. I eventually became a server, and then a chef. I learned to manage. But I started out very simply.
Q: What advice would you give someone wishing to open a restaurant?
Pay attention to location. It’s very important. And the chef is also very important, and the product. And advertise your restaurant. —Kon Asian Restaurant uses Boxerbrand’s Capri line in its menu cover presentation.