While some restaurant chains seem like they can become great and dominate the restaurant market, they sometimes fade into obscurity as they could not hold the interest of the public or make enough profit. That doesn’t seem the case for Bibibop Asian Grill as they are set to become a huge success in the United States. If you haven’t heard of this franchise yet, you soon will as there are new restaurants popping up in new locations regularly as the business successfully expands. So, is Bibibop Asian Grill the next big food franchise?
Charley Shin and the Founding of the Company
According to QSR Magazine, Charley Shin is the founder of this food company, and it wasn’t his first involvement in the food industry. Shin had worked at his mother’s restaurant when he was growing up in South Korea. This sparked his passion for food and the restaurant industry. Shin emigrated to the United States in 1977 to study at Ohio University. After he had been in the United States for nine years, he persuaded his mother to lend him her life savings to open his own restaurant.
He founded Charleys Philly Steaks in 1986, although the restaurant was originally known as Charley’s Steakery and then Charley’s Grilled Subs. His first restaurant was on the Ohio State University campus, and the company is still headquartered at this location to this day. The company now has 600 locations in 26 states, Puerto Rico, and 16 other countries. The trademark of this food franchise is that the grill always faces the customer so they can see their food being prepared and cooked.
The success of Charleys Philly Steaks inspired him to delve into another food venture, but this time he was inspired by his family roots. His main inspiration was a traditional South Korean dish that was familiar from his childhood called Bibimbap. This is a rice-based dish that has various toppings. Using this dish as inspiration, Charley Shin decided to launch Bibibop in 2013. He wanted this to become a fast-casual restaurant that centered around the dishes from his childhood in South Korea. However, he wanted to put a twist on the authentic Korean food as he did not think it would appeal to the masses. Therefore, he merely used the Korean cooking traditions as inspiration to create food that was healthy, affordable, and would appeal to the masses.
The First Bibibop Asian Grill and Growth
To open the first restaurant, he created a team from his Charleys Philly Steaks employees. Shin knew straight away that he would wait at least a year before opening further location. He wanted to make sure the concept worked before he expanded the fledgling business. However, the business was so successful that he changed his mind and opened a second store just three months later and a third just a month after that. By the end of 2016, Shin had 10 Bibibop locations running successfully in Columbus.
By early 2017, Shin had a further two Columbus locations and wanted to further expand his business. So, he started looking into the success and failures of other restaurant chains. One such restaurant was Chipotle, which had enjoyed initial success and then failed. Biz Journals says that Bibibop Development LLC acquired the leases on 15 ShopHouse Asian Kitchen restaurants in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C.
ShopHouse was the Asian food branch of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., and it was started in 2011. ShopHouse sold Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Thai inspired food, such as rice and noodle bowls. Bibibop was not the only party interested when the SHopHouse locations became available. Although they are not willing to disclose what they paid for the acquisition, a representative of Bibibop said that they got a very attractive deal.
There are some similarities between ShopHouse and Bibibop. They are both based on Asian-inspired cuisine that has been evolved to suit the mass market. They also both share the same assembly line meal delivery service, where diners move down the line to have additional ingredients tossed into the bowl. However, there are also key differences between the two companies. One of these is that the Bibibop menu is less complex. Another is that Bibibop is unique in that it serves Korean flavors.
The team at Bibibop were excited by the acquisition as they said the locations were beautiful and fit in well with the layout of their existing kitchens and dining rooms. Another reason they are pleased with the locations is that they already have strong markets in those cities for the Charleys Philly Steaks chain, and this could strengthen their position. Jon Quinn, Bibibop’s vice president of marketing, said that the new locations would help Bibibop to become a national franchise.
Further Expansion and Acquisition
Shin also spoke to Forbes about the acquisition of the ShopHouse locations. He explained that he had visited the ShopHouse chain way before his acquisition. Overall, he liked the concept of the Asian-inspired chain, However, he did have some criticism as he said that he felt the flavors were too strong. He also said that he did not feel that it had a strong niche. These are two points where Shin has tried to differ. He feels that his brand has a strong niche with a focus on well-being, and that the flavors will appeal more to the mass market as it is Americanized Korean cuisine.
QSR Magazine expands further on the food offerings at Bibibop restaurants. All the food is freshly prepared, chopped, grilled, and cooked on the site daily. The kitchens are open so that the customers can view the preparation of their food. Some of the main ingredients from which diners can choose to include in their rice, noodle, and salad bowls include organic tofu, spicy chicken, kimchi, daikon, and kale.
The restaurant has also become famous for its purple rice. This is created by cooking black rice and white rice together with purple rice being the result. Black rice is a superfood that is packed with antioxidants, iron, fiber, and copper. Bibibop is also known for its flavorsome miso soup, which is complimentary for all diners. This is a delicious addition to any of the rice, noodle, and salad bowls that make up the majority of Bibibop’s menu.
By the time Bibibop had opened the ShopHouse locations it had acquired, the company was already enjoying financial success. In a 2018 report by Restaurant Business Online, the 2017 financial details of the company were listed. According to this report, Bibibop had $23 million in systemwide sales during 2017. The company was also listed as having 25 units across the United States with a unit increase of over 108 percent. The report says that the average unit volume is $1.3 million.
Who is Sweetgreen and Can Bibibop Compete?
In March 2019, CNBC listed ten restaurants that they considered as emerging based on Fishbowl Analytics for the previous financial year. According to CNBC, Bibibop is one of the restaurants that could rival Sweetgreen.
Sweetgreen is a fast food restaurant chain that focuses on healthy eating. It was founded in 2007 by Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, and Nathaniel Ru. By October 2017, they had 77 stores across the United States, with locations in Massachusetts, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Maryland. They announced in November 2018 that they had raised $200 million in funding for further expansion of their business. CNCC says that Sweetgreen was valued at $1 billion in 2018.
CNBC gave several reasons for comparing Bibibop to Sweetgreen in terms of its potential for success. They highlighted that the company now has 30 locations across the United States, so it has enjoyed a good rate of expansion. The concept is one of the factors that has helped this chain to remain popular. The food is customizable, healthy, and makes customers feel happy. Some of the highlights of the menu mentioned include the cucumber wasabi and the bubble tea.
Charley Shin is another reason given for this company’s potential. The seasoned businessman already enjoys huge success with his other chain, Charleys Philly Steaks, so he has the experience and business acumen needed to take Bibibop to the next level.
However, Shin has not revealed what his future plans are for the business. As a successful and ambitious businessman, he will no doubt expand his chain in the future and possibly transform it into a franchise. Whether there are any plans in the pipeline to acquire further locations is something that has not been disclosed.
The Future of Bibibop Asian Grill
For now, Bibibop is pushing forward with making the experience of eating at its current locations memorable and strengthening their brand. A visit to the Bibibop website reveals more about the philosophy of the company and what they are hoping to achieve. According to the information they provide, Korean cuisine is not just about eating, but also the value of complex symbolism and the medicinal properties of the ingredients. Therefore, Korean food is intended to nourish both the body and the mind. It is intended that the ingredients interact with each other to maximize health benefits. The aesthetics of the food is also important as it is presented beautifully on the plate to display a harmony of color.
Shin has tried to reflect these values in the chain of restaurants he has created. He wants to reflect the Korean belief system that there are five primary flavors in the food served in his restaurants. This belief system says that salty is water, sweet is earth, sour is wood, spicy is metal, and bitter is fire. Bibimbap, which is the traditional Korean dish that inspired the menu, adheres to the principle of balance. Therefore, the dishes are wholesome, tasty, colorful, and will influence both health and temperament.
This concept is unique in America, and Shin hopes that it is this that will make his business stand out amongst the competition. There are no other fast-food restaurants that use these belief systems as the inspiration for the menu. It has certainly helped Shin to expand the business to where it is today. From a single restaurant in Columbus, this company has enjoyed a rapid rate of expansion. There are now 13 locations in Ohio, three in Washington D.C., four restaurants in California, four in Maryland, and two locations in Illinois.
The company has also expanded in other ways, as they offer services such as delivery and catering. There are two levels of delivery service. The main delivery option is for one to 12 people. You can place an order online and have the food collected and delivered by a DoorDash courier. It is also possible to use the catering delivery service for 12 or more people and to collect the order yourself. Adding a delivery service to the business has allowed it to extend the customer base beyond those who can come to the restaurants and has given it an additional source of income,
The company also does outside catering. Bibibop Catering gives customers the opportunity to serve a buffet-style meal to their guests that allows their guests to customize their own food bowls. The service is available for groups of between 12 and 200 people. Bibibop says that this is a great way to meet the dietary needs of all your guests, as they have the option to make vegan and gluten-free meals.
Bibibop Asian Grill has made waves in the fast-food restaurant industry with its unique take on fast-food. It stands out from competitors thanks to its unique Korean-inspired food and its healthy eating concept. The company now has a successful history behind it and it is well-established in the United States. Customers seem to love these restaurants and the concept as they give Bibibop excellent reviews and return time and again. What is next for this popular Asian-inspired chain of restaurants is not clear, but there is little doubt that the future is bright for Bibibop.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn