Chef: John He
Store: Kroger 625 and 409
City: Conway and Jonesboro, Arkansas
Average Weekly Sales: $8,000 and $10,000
My sushi backstory
I started as a restaurant sushi chef and did that for seven years. Then I partnered with a JFE competitor in Houston for a few years. After a while, I noticed that, compared with the restaurant, running the kiosk was easier. I thought, “You know I could handle a bigger store or even more stores.”
I noticed Snowfox was growing and had a lot of opportunity; so I opened my first Snowfox store in Conway, Arkansas, in spring of last year. Then I started operating the Jonesboro Marketplace this year in January.
The hardest I’ve ever worked
When I worked in restaurants, the hours were so crazy—when I started it was like 10 to 10—that by the time I got home I didn’t have time for anything else. And the one day I had off, I had to run errands. It wasn’t conducive to having a family like I have now.
The best part of owning a Snowfox franchise
There’s such a difference between my restaurant hours and my life today. I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old at home, so now, even though I work seven days a week, I get time to see them every night.
Something interesting about my background or immigration experience
Though I was born in China, I grew up in Suriname, a country on the northern coast of South America. Suriname is a former Dutch colony, so I grew up speaking Dutch in addition to Chinese.
The hardest part of running the sushi bar when I started
In the beginning it was pretty tough because, whereas in a restaurant a ticket comes in and everything’s made to order, here we have to anticipate how many packages we’ll sell in a day. You don’t want to put too many out due to food costs. But what I’ve learned is a lot of chefs think too much about saving money, but they still want their sales to be high; but both things aren’t possible. [At my stores] we actually use variety to make money even if we have to throw away some.
A job I’ve had that’s totally different from what I do now
I was actually a long-haul truck driver for a year after I first came to the States. I eventually decided to do something different because I was out on the road for over 20 days a month, so it was rough on my home life. (And I got tired of eating junk food every day!)
A unique technique I use in my store
Most of the time I do the sampling at my stores myself. It’s great to get people who haven’t tried sushi to try it, but I also like to coax people into trying raw fish. Why not? I’ll cut them a small piece and convince them to try it. When they like it, now they’ve got a whole new part of the menu they can check out. You have a happy customer, and your sales can only go up!