On the grand opening day of his restaurant, Gun-Ho shaved neatly and wore clean clothes.
The kitchen worker ladies came to the restaurant at 10 AM and started cooking noodles and preparing seasonings for the soup. At 11 AM everything was ready. Gun-Ho worked at the hall.
At 11:30 AM, customers started coming in. At noon, the restaurant was filled with people and newly coming customers had to wait in line to be seated. It was a very hectic day for Gun-Ho. He processed payments, cleaned the tables after the customers were done eating and etc. He didn’t even have the time to smoke or drink water. The ladies in the kitchen seemed to be having fun on their own; they constantly prepared noodles one after another and simmering the soup.
It became slow at around 2 PM. According to Gun-Ho’s calculation, roughly about 100 customers came until then.
“I should have started this business a long time ago. The BBQ restaurant next door is also teeming with people especially in the evening. However, their table turnover rate is too long. On the other hand, in my restaurant customers eat—more like drink—noodle soup in no time, so our restaurant has a short table turnover rate. I’m not sure who picked the pho for the menu, whoever it is, he is a genius.” Gun-Ho was self-praising.
Around 3 PM, not many customers were in the restaurant. Gun-Ho went to that smoking spot to smoke. There was the next door restaurant owner with shaved head smoking.
“It seems like your restaurant is doing very well.”
“For lunch only, I got 100 customers.”
“That’s great. You will experience another crowd pouring into the restaurant after 5.”
“Do you think there will be as many customers as lunchtime during dinner time?”
“Of course. Since dinner time is longer than lunchtime, you will have more customers.”
“Then, I’d better order more onions and meat now.”
“Congratulations. It will go on like that for a week. That’s the beauty of a new opening. You need to pay attention after a week though.”
“If you raise the sales or maintain the same level as now even after a week, then it is a success. However, if the sales decrease after a week, you will face difficulty in running the restaurant afterward. Well, you will be fine since the Vietnamese pho is an easy and quick stop for customers.”
As the shaved-head restaurant owner predicted, customers poured into Gun-Ho’s restaurant after 5 PM. That evening, Jong-Suk and Suk-Ho who was running a bar in Gyeongridan Street also stopped by Gun-Ho’s restaurant; they brought toilet papers for Gun-Ho’s new place.
“Wow, there are a lot of people here.”
“Bro, congratulations. The restaurant is pretty and you got lots of customers. Let us have pho too. It’s on me.”
“I can’t take your money, bro.”
“What are you talking about? Even though we are close enough to share things, business is business. You have to take my money for your business.”
“Haha, if you insist.”
“Uh? Bro! You seemed to lose a lot of weight.”
“That’s right. You look slimmer than the last time I saw you.”
Suk-Ho added in surprise.
“You lost weight because you had been too busy preparing your new business. I had gone through the same experience when I had opened my bar in Gyeongridan Street.”
Suk-Ho and Jong-Suk had their pho.
“You guys came this far for me. I am sorry that I couldn’t treat you better, like with alcohol.”
“Don’t be silly! We came to congratulate you, not to have a drink.”
“How is it?”
“Well… I am not so sure since this is Vietnamese noodles.”
Gun-Ho approached one of the customers who looked like an exam preparer and asked, “How do you like it? Is it good?”
“Yes, it’s okay.”
The customer responded positively. However, he didn’t even finish half of the noodle soup.
Suk-Ho and Jong-Suk got up from their seats to leave.
“Why are you leaving so early? Stay longer.”
“Nah, you have to take more customers. We can’t hold the seats. We will leave now.”
“I am sorry I couldn’t spend more time with you here.”
“Let’s have a drink when you’re not that busy anymore. Perhaps we can have some soju in this restaurant by then.”
“Sure. Make sure you don’t forget to come, okay? Let me treat you then.”
Suk-Ho was heading out when he turned around and said, “You are getting a lot of customers today because it is a new opening day. You have to remember the days after a week from now is crucial. Give the customers enough yellow pickled radishes, and if a customer wants more cilantro then don’t hesitate to give them more.”
“Okay, I will. Thank you for the tips.”
After 9 PM, it became slow. The restaurants next door were crowded, probably because they were serving alcohols as well.
At 10 PM, the kitchen worker ladies were getting ready to leave for the day.
“Thank you for today.”
“You have been very busy and must be tired, sir. We will see you tomorrow.”
After 10 PM the ladies were already gone; it was time to close the restaurant. Gun-Ho closed the front door, turned off half of the lights, and started calculating how much he made today. Including cash and credit card payments, he made 840,000 won.
“Hmm… so I sold 240 pho today.”
Gun-Ho calculated it again and again.
“If I can maintain the same level of sales as today, I can make 25,200,000 won per month! If I subtract expenses for ingredients and labor, the profit will be 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 won. It’s about an executive’s salary in a big company.”
Gun-Ho cleaned up the restaurant and turned off all the lights. Half of the payments were in cash so he put them in his bag and walked out of the restaurant. He could feel a cool breeze.
“I felt exhausted since it was the first day. Let’s get some beer and snacks on the way home; I deserved it since I made some money today.”
Gun-Ho bought beer, dried squid, and peanuts on the way home and walked towards home while swinging his bag.
The following day was also a hectic day. However, the number of customers decreased a bit. About 200 customers came to Gun-Ho’s restaurant on the second day. On the third day, some jerk posted a bad review on the Internet saying the new Vietnamese restaurant pho sucked. Maybe because of that negative review, Gun-Ho received only 150 customers that day.
“Was I getting lots of customers in the beginning just because it was a newly opened restaurant?”
Gun-Ho was getting worried. The kitchen ladies seemed to be concerned as well. As they were getting fewer customers, the more free time the ladies got; they spent the time joking at each other. On Friday and Saturday, the exam preparers, who made up a customer base in the area, seemed to choose restaurants that served alcohol; Gun-Ho’s restaurant had only a few of them. On the other hand, the dandy-looking restaurant owner next door to Gun-Ho’s was getting tons of customers in those days. The restaurant was teeming with people at night.
“Your restaurant is doing really well.”
Gun-Ho told that to the dandy-looking owner when he saw him on the way back from the restroom. The dandy-looking owner just smiled and went back into his restaurant.
A week after Gun-Ho’s restaurant’s opening, he received around 70 customers per day. Except for bad weather days or weekends. Most of the time about 70 customers visited Gun-Ho’s restaurant constantly.
“With the sales of 70, I will make a little over 7,000,000 won per month, which is not enough. If I deduct the expenses of ingredients of 400, labor, and the rent, I won’t earn anything. I don’t think my pho is any less delicious than the one across the street. I don’t get it.”
Gun-Ho grappled to find a way to improve the situation; he eventually decided to let one of the kitchen ladies go.
Gun-Ho felt embarrassed. He was embarrassed to see the neighbor restaurant owners, to see the building owner, and to see Suk-Ho, his friend running a bar in Gyeongridan Street, and to see Jong-Suk.
Even though there was only one kitchen lady working in the kitchen, he had to do what he had to do. He cleaned the restaurant every morning before the kitchen lady came, and he ordered and received fresh ingredients; he threw out trash bags and cleaned the restaurant at the end of the day.
“I am okay with all these physical work as long as I make money. The problem is that I work hard all day long for nothing.”
After three months, Gun-Ho finally gave in. He put the restaurant on the market. He smoked more often outside the restaurant. While Gun-Ho was smoking in front of the restroom outside, as usual, he saw the restaurant owner with a shaved head.
“I heard you put your restaurant on the market.”
“That’s right. I couldn’t keep up like this any longer. I don’t get enough customers.”
“Was there anyone interested in your restaurant?”
“Nah. No one has even come to see it yet. Perhaps because my price is too high?”
“How much did you ask?”
“I paid 95 million won and invested an additional 12 million for renovation, so I asked 110 million won to be fair.”
“110,000,000 won? Umm, it won’t sell at that price. The beer bar across the street put their store on the market for 100 million won. Their property is larger than yours.”
Gun-Ho was getting anxious and scared.