Bistro owner enjoys thinking small

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Bistro owner enjoys thinking small

A French restaurant in Sinsa-dong in southern Seoul has only one table with four seats. In the evening, the restaurant offers only one set course and serves only two groups of diners. The restaurant closes at 10 p.m.
The eccentric owner of the little bistro is Han Gi-chun, 56, who has run New York 5000 for the past 22 months. He’s responsible for everything from cooking to serving.
The restaurant feels as if it were five square meters (53 square feet), and is probably smaller than a snack booth, but the interior and kitchen look unusual. It was 2 p.m., but there was still a group of guests enjoying their lunch.
Asked if he makes any money out of this small restaurant in such a difficult economy, Mr. Han just laughed.
Two years ago, Mr. Han returned to Korea after running restaurants in Canada for 30 years. He immigrated to Canada with his parents when he was in his 20s and learned how to cook Japanese and Western cuisines. Mr. Han developed a number of Korean-Western fusion cuisines like pork barbecue, and some newspapers in Vancouver wrote about his cooking.
“As my children grew up and I got old, I wanted to return to Korea. So I came alone and left my family in Canada,” Mr. Han said.
“First, I opened a sandwich restaurant, but it was just too much work. Then, I decided to open a French restaurant since I thought I was best at making French cuisine.”
Mr. Han did his homework before downsizing. “In the evening, it is a set course, and only two groups of customers can be served, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Usually two persons or more dine each time. The evening course costs 100,000 won ($86) for two persons, and with wine, it costs even more.” Monthly sales amount to 6 million won.
He used to run restaurants with 50 to 60 seats, but now is learning how to manage a tiny restaurant like this one.
“I receive thank-you letters from customers,” Mr. Han said. “Many people open up restaurants because it is easier than starting other businesses, but they seem to ignore the common knowledge of running a restaurant. It is about how to serve a customer, not about an interior and a chef.”


by Pyo Jae-yong
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