Every other month, Perfect Layout Digital Marketing talks to business owners to talk about their business. The aim is to learn and share with you the personal experiences of these business owners. What is working for them and what they have learned to do differently.
At Perfect Layout we believe that sharing knowledge is a great way to help other businesses develop. We are passionate about promoting the awesome, creative and varied companies that exist not only in our local area, but also beyond the Essex borders.
Read our interview with Sun Lee, a restaurant owner of Lime Orange that offers Korean food in London.
Business name – Lime Orange
Owner – Sun Lee
Location – Westminster, London
Tell us a bit about you?
Lime Orange is a family business that was started by my parents. I used to help them out in the restaurant when I was at school. At 18 years old, I had to choose whether to go into the restaurant business with them or go to university. I felt that university was a good place for those seeking a particular profession, but as I wasn’t going to be heading down that path, I decided to work with my parents instead and gain my training through on-the-job experience.
How did you come up with the name Lime Orange?
There are two reasons. At the time that my parents opened the restaurant, all the other Korean restaurants in London had Korean names. We wanted to be different. My mum had read and enjoyed the book My Lime Orange Tree, so they decided to call the restaurant Lime Orange.
Was it easy to introduce Korean food into the British market?
Yes, we were fully booked the first week our restaurant opened. Whilst there were Korean restaurants in Soho, there weren’t any around Victoria at the time. The majority of our customers are European and Chinese. We also get a lot of the pre-theatre clientele.
Do you serve traditional Korean food or is it a fusion?
We used to do Sushi and Korean, but we dropped the sushi, and decided to concentrate on our own dishes.
What is your signature dish?
Bibimbap – it translates to Mixed Rice. The dish has seven different vegetables, egg, rice, chilli paste, all individually marinated, so each dish is slightly different. There is a meat option for those who want that too.
How long have you been running Lime Orange?
I have been part-managing it since 2011 but I took over the restaurant completely in 2015. Looking back, I see that by going to work with them in the restaurant they could plan for their retirement.
How have things changed since you took over?
In the beginning I didn’t see the flaws, it was what I always knew. I was used to the working week being 6/7 days per week and up to 12 hrs per day. Eventually that got to me, so I sought ways to make a change and bring in the right staff and systems to make it run more efficiently.
How did you start making that change?
Part of the inspiration came from the book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber. It showed me that I was a good manager and technician, however I was working too much ‘in’ the business, rather than ‘on’ the business. I was nowhere near being a business owner but rather becoming an exhausted employee. At that time, I was set on controlling all aspects of the business, despite having numerous members of staff.
A light bulb morning was when my wife went into labour. Had I not given over control to a member of staff, I could have easily missed my baby’s birth. Despite it being hard for me at the time, I called all my staff and told them that I had to leave and that I trusted them to take care of the restaurant for the night. It was then that I realised that I wasn’t always needed at every moment of the working day.
So, I restructured the team and put the correct systems in place to support the staff. With a kitchen manager and a front of house manager I was able to let go of many of the time-consuming tasks that had to be done each day.
From there I began creating training manuals, for all new staff members. Check lists to make sure that everything was in place. Today, it is easy to know when day-to-day tasks have been completed or are outstanding.
What makes you stand out from other Korean restaurants?
Our service is something that we focus on. The others don’t tend to focus on the service. Our food is excellent. Even Koreans who come to London often say that it is better than in Korea!
We used to use only Korean chefs but found over time that many of them had their own style, which didn’t always marry with our desired outcome for the dishes. About three years into the business we decided to train non-Koreans in our style of cooking.
I see you have Certificates of Excellence from Trip Advisor from 2016-2019. Tell me how you were awarded these?
Trip Advisor rewards those businesses that have more than 80% positive reviews. We don’t focus on getting awards, we work on good customer service, excellent food and word of mouth. With those elements in place, the rest follows.
What are your digital marketing strategies for your business?
Influencer marketing and food bloggers on Instagram is what we are focussing on right now. We invite them in for a free meal in exchange for an honest review. Our Instagram following is now up to 1,000 followers and our revenue shot up since then.
What are your ambitions for the next 5 years?
My plan is to expand the business. I want to bring Korean food to Europe. My plan is to have 50 locations by the end of 2029. I want to start in London, then across the UK. Once they are established, I will set up restaurants in European cities.
What advice would you give someone wanting to open up their own restaurant?
I have three top tips.
1. Make sure you have good food. There are a lot of restaurants that don’t have great food. You could have all the other things in place, such as good customer service, décor etc, but if the food isn’t right then they won’t come back.
2. Location – this is an obvious one, but is so true. If you’re not in the right place, it could kill your business before it even gets started.
3. Marketing. People need to know you exist, especially when you are opening a restaurant. The aim is to get profitable as quickly as possible. Doing the right marketing at the beginning can make all the difference. Today we are focused on social media marketing and influencer marketing,
What or who is your inspiration?
Right now, I am following Mac Attram, Tony Robbins and other personal development coaches. Since I jumped into personal growth for myself, it’s an area in which I ultimately want to be in. I’d like to make a change to people’s lives. My calling is supporting secondary school children in years 9, 10, 11. I feel that this is a critical age for young adults. This is the time when they need a positive influence in their life and somehow, I want to be in that space to motive and inspire them.
If you would like make a reservation at Lime Orange, go to: www.limeorange.co.uk
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