Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing franchise series, which highlights brands that are new to or aggressively expanding via franchising. Is your restaurant starting to franchise? Email us at [email protected]
In 2010, Mike Lenard, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based TaKorean, opened his first Korean taco restaurant out of a converted 1985 Ford E350 StepVan. Lenard, who has experience in retail operations, was interested in a variety of food concepts, but settled on Korean tacos. There was a strong Korean community in Annandale, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C.-area, but there weren’t a lot of Korean food options, he said. TaKorean offers Korean-esque food with a lot of vegetables and fresh herbs, he said.
The concept proved to be popular among Washingtonians, especially as food trucks were gaining traction not just locally, but nationally. TaKorean opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Union Market in Washington, D.C., in 2012, and has since opened five locations in various formats, from inline brick-and-mortar stores to food courts and food halls, Lenard said. He has since given up his food truck, donating it to Arcadia Farms, and is focusing on growing his concept within brick-and-mortar locations.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lenard was consulting on the side of his business and realized the best topic he could consult on was how to operate a TaKorean, which is essentially a franchising conversation, Lenard said. With that thought in mind, he and his team, with the help of iFranchise Group, created a franchising program that includes leadership coaching for franchisees and their restaurant leaders, Lenard said. With simple, fresh ingredients, TaKorean’s menu doesn’t require a lot of pre-trained skills or specialty cooking, and only uses two pieces of gas equipment, Lenard said.
TaKorean has developed a fully integrated technology system that spans everything from point-of-sales to delivery operations, bookkeeping, scheduling and payroll. It requires a limited amount of managerial time in the office, Lenard said. TaKorean’s inventory system is managed via a tablet, and inventory levels self-calculate. The company uses OnePoint to help with accounting. While franchisees are not required to use OnePoint, TaKorean highly recommends it, Lenard said.
Development plans: TaKorean is currently looking to open one restaurant at a time with future franchisees, and wants to ensure success at its initial franchise locations to create a strong base for a burgeoning franchise program. The company is open to multi-unit deals, but isn’t seeking them out. TaKorean is currently casting a wide net for potential markets, and once it sees brand recognition and franchisee interest in a particular market, it expects to build up that area, Lenard said. TaKorean is flexible on potential restaurant sizes, depending on a market’s real estate conditions.
Ideal franchisees: TaKorean is open to working with individuals from all backgrounds, including ones without restaurant experience, Lenard said. For the chain, the most important quality in a franchisee candidate is experience in a customer service-oriented environment and understanding of what employees go through on a day-to-day basis when working with customers.
Franchise quick facts
- Initial investment: $215,500 to $781,500
- Liquidity requirement: $200,000
- Net worth: $500,000
- Franchisee fee: $40,000
- Royalty fee: 4%
- Marketing fee: 1% initially, but up to 2%
- Local marketing: 1%