Global Young Entrepreneur Star in Miami, Jonathan Chen Builds Catering Empire in Southern Florida
Jonathan Chen grew up in Kaohsiung and moved to Miami with his father and brother when he was 17 because his family believed the lack of Mandarin speakers in Miami, Florida, provided a better environment to learn English. Chen went through his final year in high school and successfully went on to study in finance department in college. After graduating, Chen got an office job which lasted a year before he realized he wanted more, during which his friend who was running a Japanese buffet store asked Chen to be his store manager, and Chen gladly took the job and changed career paths.
After working at the Japanese buffet for over a year, Chen discovered his ambition to start up his own bubble tea shop, and so he returned to Taiwan to learn the relevant skills. Afterwards, he returned to the States, and with his work savings and a mortgage, he began importing equipment and ingredients from Taiwan to the US, and started to develop bubble tea and shaved snow products that would better suit the US tastebuds. As Chen got everything ready, the store's opening schedule was delayed for six months due to renovation work, during which the rent still had to be paid, fortunately Chen's business partner was very understanding and together they overcame all difficulties and finally in 2017, Taiwan Ice was successfully opened.
Taiwan Ice was very lucky to recoup all investments after 18 months; even when the COVID pandemic traumatized the catering industry in 2020, Taiwan Ice was one of the few stores that remained in operation, in fact, business was better than ever due to their advantage of being more of a take-out store. During that same period, Chen also sought out other business opportunities, he decided to jointly invest with his friend in The Fatty Crab, a restaurant featuring Cajun seafood that opened up in March of 2021. This time, they ran into the labor shortage problem of the post-pandemic era, the restaurant needed more staff in every department as business was booming, in the end, Chen and his partner had to jump in and share the workload. Chen's partner mainly helped out in the kitchen, whereas Chen would handle the front of the house and the bar; after work hours, they would review the day and discuss any improvements that needed to be made, so that they could make up for the lack of experience in the restaurant industry.
Through this experience of opening his own restaurant, Chen understood that when doing business in the States, it is important to follow rules. If one adheres strictly to set regulations, employees of any ethnic background could easily fit into and accept that work culture, even in an ethnic melting pot such as Florida. Chen was proactive in cultivating excellent performing staff, and he was dedicated to providing his staff with a stable and secure work environment, taking the time to tell them the restaurant's future direction, holding company gatherings and playing golf with them. The restaurant operated smoothly, its management cared for its staff, and the overall work environment was pleasant. Under such circumstances, the staff were more than willing to recommend suitable friends or family to join the restaurant's operations, and in the end resolved the labor shortage problem.
After The Fatty Crab opened, Chen met two partners who matched his abilities and age; one used to work and learn from a ramen store opened by a Japanese chef, and the other had experience working as an administrative chef in a five star hotel. With the addition of these two partners, the team was on a momentum, and their first mission was to reform the first partner's pan-Asian restaurant, the Sesame Asian Bistro. It took them only six months to increase its revenues by a fold compared to the previous year, and that is an accomplishment only few have achieved in the competitive Miami catering industry.
The young and eager team have gained more confidence in itself having opened a series of restaurants and reformed old ones successfully, they continue to prepare the opening of a Japanese ramen store, the Zuru Ramen Bar, because they believe Japanese cuisine is highly popular in the American market, and could bring about more opportunities. The name "Zuru" came from the sound the Japanese literally make when sucking up ramen noodles and drinking its soup, and so with the name came the assurance that customers to the store would get the most authentic Japanese experience. A second Zuru Ramen Bar store will be opened simultaneously about 20 kilometers away from Miramar City to better serve the Miami population.
Chen said that he will open at least two more restaurants and he will include Taiwanese features, because "I am Taiwanese after all, I want to introduce Taiwanese features to Miami". When people praised Chen for being successful at such a young age, he humbly stated that his success is actually a combination of many factors. He said he has always been a very stress resilient person, and had the luck of running into partners with the same interest. However, he stressed that though one may be capable, one still needs a stage to perform on, which is why he cherishes every opportunity given to him to demonstrate his abilities, and that he is grateful to have work and life partners who are willing to communicate and solve problems together in difficult times. Chen said that he makes use of a day as if it were a week, that is how he pushes himself to improve, and that his mind never rests and is always thinking of how to solve problems. He also stated that he will take full advantage of the opportunities and stage he has and will work relentlessly to create his ideal catering empire.
Finally, Chen's advice to people who want to startup their own business is that, you have to start from something you fully understand. After you've accumulated enough capital and people network, then you can move on to the next stage of expansion; and that you should do things that make you happy, only such a career will last in the long run. He also stated that, aside from courageously pursuing your dreams, you must also be humble and modest, treat everyone with kindness, and don't panic, because panicking is the deadliest factor to starting a business. He concluded by saying that, you should cherish every opportunity you have, and be grateful to everyone who helps you and are willing to pull up their sleeves and share the hard work with you.
Global Young Entrepreneur Star, Jonathan Chen.
Taiwan Ice shaved snow and bubble tea products.
The popular Fatty Crab Cajun seafood store.
The reformed and trendy pan-Asian restaurant, now often a full house.