We had the good fortune of connecting with Viet Tran and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Viet, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It started 10 years ago from originally starting a Youtube show call Tran Can Cook teaching people how to cook Vietnamese food. The success from that show brought other opportunities such as a local cooking show on Houston SGN network and on NBC show called America’s Next Great Restaurant in 2010 with the likes of Bobby Flay, Steve Ells (owner of Chipotle ), and Curtis Stone. The prize was 3 restaurant locations of your concept in New York, L.A. and Mall of America. Although I didn’t place in the show, I knew that my life’s purpose was to create my own restaurant concept. In 2015, VIETWICH was conceived in a small gas station in Sugarland only open on Fridays and Saturday for a few hours to bring my concept to life. Over the course of 4 years, customers raved about VIETWICH and eventually it was financially feasible to get my first brick and mortar location in 2019.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Since I wanted total control of every aspect of my vision and future of VIETWICH, I rejected offers from investors and joint ventures, which meant it took longer to raise capital. I bootstrapped my operations from starting at my house inviting friends over to test different menu items to eventually starting at a gas station. I had to ask the owner if I could rent out their small kitchen since they only fry food in the mornings. Eventually we worked out a deal and I was able to operate on Fridays and Saturdays. It allowed me to keep my full time job and operate on weekends so I can maintain cash flow to take care of bills at home and incubate my small side hustle. Every weekend was like cooking for Thanksgiving, as I prepped every evening for those two days. Fridays would be especially tough as I had to do everything from A to Z(open up shop, grill meats, serve lunch rush, then close up before 3pm to pick up my kids from school). Every day at VIETWICH is one small step in growing the business as each customer review counted and help spread the word.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
I learned alot along the way to my first brick and mortar, but what I would say to anyone that wants to start in the food game. 1)MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ONE SOLID PRODUCT. If you got that then everything else can be built around that. Most folks start with I have an idea…. Well bring that idea to life and start bringing some friends over and lets test it out. Then do that 100 times. If you can’t do that then don’t start a restaurant. 2) DON’T OVERLEVERAGE – My restaurant has survived covid because I had selected a location that was a small pre existing restaurant space and didn’t need to spend a ton of money on a fresh buildout. Low rent was another factor. If my product made it out of a gas station then I don’t need a premier high rent location and customers can find me a mile or two outside that high rent area. My gas station sales grew to the point where I had hard actual numbers to make a determination of the feasibility of going brick and mortar.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
VIETWICH sets itself as the premier spot for well executed banh mi focused on delivering soft yet crisp bread with high quality ingredients. “Its not just a banh mi, Its a VIETWICH” Mr Viet will be going back to Youtube in a series for VIETWICH. He will be vlogging on the story of how he got to his 1st brick and mortar location and document his journey to 5 locations in Houston, then eventually going to Austin, then nationwide. VIETWICH VLOG will go behind the scenes on new menu item creations, business struggles, and everything in between. Please subscribe!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Eat a bowl of mi quang at Que Huong on Bellaire near Eldridge. Best in town!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My momas she serves the best Vietnamese food and has sacrificed a lot for our family.
I took the photos myself. Credit to Mr Viet