Cuisine | Magasin Vietnamese Cafe/Magasin Kitchen
One Step at a Time
We start every day fresh and embrace the good, the bad, the new and the uncertain. – Kim Nguyen, Owner
The only thing you can control is how you approach the unpredictable.
Throughout her career, Kim Nguyen has always embraced risk. Her fearlessness and determination, coupled with her drive to create a solid foundation for her family, propelled her through the ranks of the restaurant industry and led her to establish three successful restaurants with her husband, Luu Tran. When faced with the challenge of adapting to a global pandemic and a transformed business climate, Nguyen was ready to meet the task head on. It might have been impossible to prepare for, but with the livelihoods of so many riding on the decisions she made as a business owner and leader, Nguyen chose to persevere. After all, the ups and downs are all part of the process, and if Nguyen has it her way, this new challenge will lead to growth.
In what ways are you thriving and pushing forward as a business during COVID-19?
We stayed open the whole time. During the restriction period, we followed guidelines and continued with takeout orders. It was essential for us to remain open. We closed down one location, but to stay afloat, we had to keep Magasin Kitchen open. It was a hard decision, and after discussing it with our staff, we decided to go day by day and fight. We all have families, and for my team, this was their only source of income. Filing for unemployment was not an option for them. We had the opportunity to remain open or to close, and I was happy we stayed open. Our takeout has always been a considerable revenue source for business; although we lost half of our dine-in sales, we must say that we were incredibly blessed and received tremendous support from our landlord at South Market District.
Are there any lessons you have learned?
We learned that we couldn’t control a lot of things, and most importantly, we learned that our staff and community need us just as much as we need them. Samin Nosrat says the beautiful thing about cooking is that it’s a pretty quick process, and really, it doesn’t allow much time to get attached to the results: whether a dish stinks or turns out beautifully, you have to start over from scratch again the next day. So we start every day fresh and embrace the good, the bad, the new and the uncertain. I have to stick to that, because that will be the only way to survive.
How have you maintained a sense of company culture?
Our staff stood by us, and I’m beyond grateful we have them. They hung in there, helped out and did everything in their power as if the business was their own. Half of our staff is second and third generation, and the language barrier was a challenge. Still, the underlying language of love is so transparent, and they understood the importance of either thriving or failing together.
What has been your experience with the change to remote working?
It has been great. I handle the internal side of the business, and given the time at home, I was able to come up with several side hustles for the industry, such as wholesale. I was able to link up with a high-reward networking program that can help us market the restaurant and allows diners to earn reward points. This has made me extremely productive, and I’m naturally the type of person always to have a plan in place, so I was grateful for the time.