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Foreign Creatures

Snociety: FAQ

restaurantJessicaComment
Photo by Ed and Al.

Photo by Ed and Al.

Photo by Ed and Al.

Photo by Ed and Al.

It's been a year since we've started running Snociety and I can't believe it's been a year. We've started it not knowing a thing about running a food and drink shop and now it is part of our daily routine. It's still a huge challenge and we're still learning a lot. Here are some frequently asked questions since starting this business.

  1. Do you still drink boba? 
    • Short answer: Yes

    • Long answer: I believe every boba shop makes their boba differently. Some places make their boba chewier while other make their boba softer. At Snociety, we make our boba on the chewier side. However, my favorite boba is at Cha for Tea. They make their boba chewy but not as hard as ours. I want to know how they do it!

  2. How's business? 
    • Short answer: It's good. It's busy during weekday lunch and slower at night and weekends.

    • Long answer: It fluctuates and is hard to predict. Weekday lunch is where we get most of our business. Weekday nights are tougher. We're currently transitioning our hours and closing 1 hour earlier on weekdays to help offset the cost. When there are events in our area, we get more traffic. We're hidden so it's a bit harder for people to find us.

  3. Do you eat poke everyday?  
    • Short answer: No.

    • Long answer: The first couple of months I ate it almost every day. In the beginning, we had kitchen staff problems so I would be the kitchen staff for the day and would cut the fish (tuna, salmon, albacore, etc). After cutting so much fish I couldn't eat salmon anymore. It was only salmon though. It was so weird. But if I forced myself to eat salmon, it tasted so good! However, we ate ayce sushi at least 3x already. I think it's the idea of eating it at OUR shop that stops me from wanting to eat so much. I never got sick from eating it. I just don't like to eat raw fish as often as before. I can still eat our cooked fish (squid, baby octopus, shrimp) though.

  4. How do you like being a business owner?
    • Short answer: It's fun! Challenging but fun.

    • Long answer: I love owning a business. BUT problems never stop. When I think we got everything handled and smoothed out, something comes up. In another post I'll be sharing all the problems we've run into. That will be a fun post to read! I would love to keep owning a restaurant or some shop of sort. Owning a shop just naturally comes with so many problems. There's no running away from it, it's just something you have to face, suck it up, and power thru.

  5. How many employees do you have?
    • Short answer: We have 12. [that's a lot!] No, it's okay.

    • Long answer: We have about 4 or 5 employees who work during the daytime, and 3 employees who work at night. Considering that we open 7 days a week and everyone's schedule changes and there are call-offs, 12 (not including Aaron and I) is a good number of employees to have.

  6. You're not working today? Who's watching the shop?
    • Short answer: No, we have employees who are taking care of the shop.

    • Long answer: I am always working. Even if we are not physically at the shop, we are always monitoring the cameras, communicating with our employees, and monitoring the finances to see if it's busy or not. Even though we are a small business, we would not be able to run the business without employees. We would burn out easily and wouldn't be able to continue. I also allocate a day where I do all my grocery shopping, finances, payroll, scheduling, and admin stuff. I'll be sharing my weekly schedule in another blog post. So stay tuned for that.

If you have any other questions feel free to ask me. I love to talk about business. I don't freely talk about it in public because I don't think people are interested. There are so many details and challenges so I think the best way for me to share them is thru this blog.

Snociety: Introducing New Items

restaurantJessicaComment

It's fun to own a shop because I'm constantly thinking of ways to improve and thinking of new items to sell. Selling items is easier when you already have an establishment (since it's already legal for you to sell things) but I learned that there's more to it than just printing a new item on your menu. Here are 6 questions I ask myself before including a new item to our menu. 

  1. Is the item consistent with your current menu?
    If my shop mainly sells poke, that means I'm not going to sell steak, omelets, curry, or tapas...I'm going to sell something in the theme of Hawaiian. It needs to make sense. If it doesn't make sense, then customers are going to question the type of restaurant you are and the quality of your food.
  2. What do I need to make the item?
    It's important to list out all the ingredients you need to make the item. If it requires a lot of ingredients, is it worth it?
  3. How difficult is it to source the ingredients?
    Am I going to get the ingredients at one of my current vendors or one of the places I normally shop at? Or will I have to find a new source? If I find a new source, is it worth the trouble? Does my new vendor have a minimum shipping fee? If I currently carry the ingredients, then that's perfect.
  4. Where do I store the items?
    A big thing at our shop is storage. I have to shop twice a week for our produce items because of our limited storage. Is there storage space for the ingredients and for the new items? If not, does that mean I have to cut some inventory items and shop more than twice a week?
  5. How much does it cost us and how much do we charge?
    This is an important question. We have to calculate the ingredient cost and the labor cost (the amount of time to make the item x wage), and see how much our competitors are charging. Then we come up with a price. If both ingredient and labor costs are high, but your pricing is low because you want to stay competitive, then it's probably not a good idea to sell your item.
  6. How do I advertise?
    When we are ready to include the new item to our menu, we have to make sure our menu is updated on all platforms. That includes our physical handout menu, our stand up menu, our online ordering platform, and our website. To promote your item, try selling it as a promotional item. Like "buy 2, get 1 free". Once customers notice your item and start asking about it more often, then you can sell your item at a normal price. Just make sure you're still making a profit during your promotional offer.   

These questions applied to us when we started to sell spam musubis. They were consistent with our Hawaiian menu. We needed rice, furikake, spam, roasted seaweed sheets, sauce. Out of all the ingredients, we only needed to buy spam and roasted seaweed sheets and those items were found at our current vendors. Since the items were small, we found storage for it. Our kitchen staff would make it in the morning and once it was sold out, then that would be it for the day. We decided that it was profitable only if it was sold in limited quantity. We didn't sell our spam musubi on our online ordering platform because it was limited quantity a day but we did put it on all our other platforms.

We also did this for our poke shrimp tacos. We sold them for a couple of months but in the end it wasn't for us.. It made a profit and it tasted good, but it wasn't worth the trouble to make.

It's easy for people to suggest things for you to sell but you have to think is it worth it for you and for your business? You can think it's easy to sell a lot of items because you can make a bigger profit, but there's a lot of other things to factor in that people may not see. You don't want to overwhelm your customers with too many options to choose from. Stick with what you're good at and maybe think about selling items seasonally instead of permanently.

The Estate on Second Wedding

weddingJessicaComment

I enjoyed working on this wedding suite because the bride and groom wanted a romantic classic suite. Very simple and very elegant. Their name font is Notera and their main text font is Bauer Bodini Roman. Their colors remained consistent and the whole wedding was so classy. I loved it!

Photography by Emily Magers

Snociety: Handling Yelp Reviews

restaurantJessicaComment
Yelp Reviews.jpg

One of the hardest things for me so far is Yelp. I loved Yelp like to the MAX. I would use it to find the best restaurants, I would take every review to consideration, and I would swipe thru all 432 photos at a restaurant. BUT NOW I HATE YELP. It's like the worse thing to a restaurant owner. Kind of. I love the 5 star reviews and the many compliments. But then there's those 3 stars or those reviews that comment on wrong orders, long lines, bad process, portion control, and unhappy employees. It's true though...we mess up orders, we don't always have good customer service, and we can't control long lines to the bathroom. But this is where I need to learn to be kind and loving.

So here are 3 things to consider when answering Yelp reviews.

  1. Don't get emotional
    Yelpers tend to make negative reviews as soon as they can because their experience was just that horrible. You don't see as many Yelpers posting positive reviews right away. But when a customer is mad, they go straight to social media and Yelp. It's easy to take things personal and get upset. It's easy for me to be defensive and to want to say how I truly feel but it's not good to fight back. I have to remember that I need to show grace. If it's difficult to read a bad review, come back to it later when you're feeling a lot stronger and when you feel confidence in the work you do.
  2. Yelpers do not always speak on behalf of the community
    Not everyone has Yelp and neither does everyone go to Yelp to rave or complain. There is a chance that the Yelper is not the only person who feels happy about your food or feels upset that an order was taking too long to get to them. At first, we did take every review into consideration. One Yelper said we put too much rice, so then we told all our employees to put less rice. Then 2 weeks later a Yelper said that we didn't put enough rice. So it's really a balance of which reviews to consider and to make a judgment based on your business...not others. And our current solution is weighing our rice to make sure the proportions are correct and consistent. Ever since we started this shop, we answered all reviews either privately or publicly because we want them to know that they are heard. We want them to know that there are people behind our restaurant establishment.
  3. Read, learn, and improve
    Whether the review is positive or negative, we affirm the Yelper and thank them for their visit. We also tell them that we take everything they say into consideration...which we do! It's very important to listen to your customers but remember, do it with caution. You need to learn to do what is best for your business. For example, we switched from plastic bowls to eco-friendly bowls. It seemed like a great choice because it's good for the environment! However, the paper bowls absorbed the sauce and was a bit harder to eat out of. Instead of reverting back to our plastic bowls, we placed wax paper on top of the bowl so the sauce wouldn't get to the bottom. It's still a bit harder to eat, but as a business, we still believe switching to our new bowls were the right choice. It was also cheaper to get these paper bowls than the plastic ones! Surprising huh?

Waiting for a Year

thoughts, adoptionJessicaComment

Last March we were officially a waiting family for adopting. It feels so long that we've been waiting and I can't believe it's been a year. We just completed our recertification and we had our social worker come to our home to inspect and to talk to us about how things are going.

We're still unsure how long we are willing to wait until we try to have kids biologically. It's difficult to be patient especially when our friends around us are pregnant and have kids. We're trying to trust in God's timing and plan for us. I say try because we struggle with the wait and I tend to lean on what I think our future plans look like. I would like to think we'd have 5 kids before Aaron is 40. I would like to believe that we would adopt domestically and internationally for as long as we can and if the funds are there. I would like to believe that God has adoption in our future plans. But we really don't know. There's a burden in my heart for adoption so I wonder why God would allow me to feel this tug if in the end, He doesn't even allow us to adopt. So I try to trust in God's plan for us.

I think why would God give us a family if it's still difficult to bring two sinners together. Or why would God give us a family when we have so much going on. Bringing a child into our lives right now just doesn't seem like the right time. Aaron and I decided to buy a restaurant to focus our efforts and desire on something besides adoption. But now that we have it and understand how much work is put into it, it seems impossible to have a child right now while we're running a restaurant. So is God waiting for us to have this restaurant thing established and consistent? Or is God building our patience? Maybe God wanted us to go thru adoption just so we can own this shop. Or maybe God's plan for us isn't even about the shop or adoption. So what will He do with our lives?

Hurst Ranch Wedding

wedding, designJessicaComment

One of my favorite hobbies is designing wedding invitations. I'm a romantic and I like to make things pretty. And wedding invitations is a great avenue for all things beautiful, textile, and lovely!

To kick off showcasing some wedding designs I've done, I would like to start off with my dear friends Tim and Joce! They got married December of 2015 at a beautiful ranch in West Covina. This was the first time I've worked with watercolor and it was so much fun. It was challenging to figure out the process but as soon as I got the ink to water ratio, I felt at more ease.

I mocked up a watercolor background for the couple to see before watercoloring each individual piece. Their RSVP card was a tear off so they can send the postcard back.

Photography by Kyle Ng

The best part is that I have 2o more weddings to share with you all :)

Snociety: Theme

restaurant, home decorJessicaComment

After 4 months of being stuck with a logo...it's done! And now that I'm out of my stuck zone, I feel more confident in sharing our process and progress. So let's start off with our inspiration for changing up the space then we'll get more in depth in future post. When we got the restaurant, the space looked like this:

We decided to keep the wood walls and the major construction items like the countertops, flooring, and furniture. At least for phase 1. Phase 2 would be like if we had money to spend. Phase 1 is like a $2000 budget. And we know that budgets are really just a number that we kid ourselves. The wood is a tile and has a distressed look. The flooring is concrete, which I love. We wanted to bring some life into the restaurant and to be in the LA VIBE scene especially since we're located in downtown LA. So our theme word is...Urban Earthy. When it came to deciding furniture, decoration, uniform, and everything in between, we would ask ourselves..."is it urban earthy?" That was a good parameter for us to keep a cohesive theme going.

Since this restaurant was passed down to us and we were already in operation, we couldn't shut down to remodel. Plus, we didn't have the financial means to do it. So we did things little by little but fast.

Here were some inspirational photos for our Urban Earthy restaurant:

More photos to come and I'm excited to share the transformation especially when we get the funds to transform it into a beautiful urban earthy restaurant!

We bought a Poke Shop!

food, thoughtsJessicaComment

Here's the story of how we bought a poke and boba shop called Snociety Urban Eatery in Little Tokyo and how all of this happened in 3 days! One Friday we found out that our family member was planning to sell the poke shop. They offered it to us but we said no because we had no interest in being restaurant owners nor did we know anything about it. BUT THEN my parents talked to us about how it's a great opportunity and they crunched some numbers for us to see. And on Saturday night, we were like okay maybe we should do this. (Everything also made sense. It wasn't just because my parents that we decided to do this.) Then Sunday we prayed about it and Monday morning we decided YES. We needed to make the decision quick or else the shop would've been sold to someone else. So that Monday I had to tell my boss that that week will have to be my last week with the company.

Here are 3 reasons why we decided to take on a poke shop and call ourselves restaurant owners!

  1. The opportunity was there - the shop's Yelp reviews were good, people liked the food, everything was set in place. We just had to survive. And will we?
  2. It's been hard waiting to adopt and we needed to do something BIG to keep our minds off of kids. We figured owning a shop will definitely help us with that.
  3. We love poke, boba, Little Tokyo, and Japan. The Saturday my parents talked to us about the shop, was the same day Aaron and I had our Japanese Day Date. On those dates, we would go to Little Tokyo to eat ramen for lunch and then pick up sashimi at the Japanese market and eat it for dinner at home while watching a movie, which ends up being a Marvel movie. Was it meant to be?

It's been about 3 months since we owned the shop and a lot of things have changed. I'll be posting before and after photos and many many challenges and joys of being a restaurant owner. So many things to share! Aaron and I could not have done it without our parents, family, and friends support. We've had so many visitors and we feel so loved every time a familiar face opens our door. It's been a joy and I am thrilled to serve our family and friends in this way.