NAN PRICE: Give us a little background about the business and how you became involved.
MARK MOON: My journey from office to kitchen is atypical. This is a family business. I’m not a chef or a cook. I’m a suit and tie guy. I used to be an attorney. I stepped into this business when my father needed help.
For as long as I remember, he was building businesses and selling things. He owned everything from general stores to women’s clothing stores. That’s what brought my family from New York to Connecticut in 1998. They had moved from Korea to the United States in the 1970s.
When he opened Seoul BBQ, my father sold the other businesses. Like me, he’s not a chef or a cook. He’s a business owner.
NAN: Did you learn how to run a business through his experiences?
MARK: I think his thought process was: Go out and grind, and within that grind, you make the correct smart decisions. The business background is blood. It’s more reality and less learning about x’s and o’s.
NAN: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered stepping into this business ownership role?
MARK: You lose your life. You lose your time. That’s the biggest challenge.
Luckily, I came into a business that was operating. I didn’t need to come here and make it operational. Have I added stuff here and there? Sure. But I was lucky it wasn’t falling apart. The business was growing when I got here and it continues to do so.
There are a lot of things I was anticipating and there are things I wasn’t anticipating in terms of challenges. There are always 100 things to do. Can you get through all 100 of them every day? It depends on the day.
The people who work here make this thing fly. Everybody here works really hard and puts in the time.
NAN: Marketing is usually a challenge, especially in the food industry.
MARK: I was fortunate to connect with INGroup Creative Owner Jeannette Dardenne through our kids. Over the years we’ve established a relationship that’s more than business.
I use social media, but I’m not savvy with it. INGroup helps me out a lot. They also help with my website and they’ve helped with my visibility by giving me opportunities to be on TV and providing connections to all kinds of interviews—including this one.
NAN: What makes your restaurant innovative or unique?
MARK: When you come to Seoul BBQ, it’s an experience. We want our guests to really experience Korean BBQ. You can participate in creating your own food and you get a wide assortment of things to try, starting with the banchan, which are side dishes that provide a little taste.
There’s a Korean proverb that basically says food doesn’t taste as good if you’re eating it by yourself. We feel like all the food on the table should be for everybody. All the dishes are meant to be shared. That way you get to enjoy a little of everything.
That’s probably the thing that I love most—hearing the eating, drinking, and laughing and seeing the smiles on people who are uncomfortably full. I enjoy that because I know that feeling. I like being able to provide a place like that for people.