Let us pose you a question. What kind of method do you think is used at Mr. Tandull to cook meat, especially samgyeopsal (pork belly) and moksal (pork neck)? If you say that it’s probably gui (grilling), it is a great guess for the majority of Korean meat restaurants but not for Mr. Tandull. The correct answer is kkochi-gui (roasted on skewers). Skewers are usually associated with chicken or lamb. However, at Mr. Tandull, you can also have pork and beef on skewers. Thanks to the differentiation from other restaurants through an unusual cooking method, the restaurant franchise Mr. Tandull is emerging as a popular novel brand these days.
Mr. Tandull Gives a Glimpse at the Culinary Cultures of Three Nations
The roasted skewers of Mr. Tandull mirror the culinary cultures of Korea, India, and Brazil. The tandoor employed for the first roasting is of the kind of a clay oven used in northern India. It is heated by firing charcoal or wood on the floor of the oven, and it maintains a temperature of 480℃.
The way that the beef, pork, onions, pumpkins, and other ingredients at Mr. Tandull are put on skewers and roasted over a charcoal fire was inspired by the Brazilian grilled meat, churrasco. Those two culinary cultures are combined with the Korean custom of eating pork belly and pork neck meat.
Mr. Tandull’s method of roasting meat brought an end to the discomfort people experienced in conventional Korean meat restaurants. First of all, the smell of roasted meat no longer permeates the customers’ clothes. That’s because the meat is first grilled in the kitchen. This removes the smell and smoke of roasting. Also, customers are less likely to ask the servers to change the grilling plate. And gone are the uncomfortable ventilating openings that block views and can cause conversational breakdowns. All those problems are resolved by having the meat roughly roasted before serving.
Vintage Interior and Low Prices Attract Customers
The most popular items on Mr. Tandull’s menu are the pork belly skewers and the Korean beef skewers. Many customers order King Kkochi, in which the meat, vegetables, and fruit appear on skewers altogether. Yuk-hae-gong Kkochi, which is a harmony of meat and seafood, as well as pork belly skewers are also pulling in a lot of visitors. Most of the regular customers are office workers ranging in age from 20s to 50s. They visit Mr. Tandull because they like the comfortable and neat interior and reasonable prices. When you step into the restaurant, the first thing that catches your eye is the vintage interior. The prices of the dishes are: KRW9,900 for 200g of pork belly or pork neck; KRW15,900 for 200g of boneless chuck short ribs, prime ribs, or chuck flap tail; and KRW10,900 for 800g of assorted vegetable skewers.
Mr. Tandull currently operates seven restaurants across the country and is examining the business potential of its strengths in China, Singapore, and other foreign markets.
Choi Yeun-wook, CEO of VSCOMPANY
“In my opinion, there is a limit to succeeding with the conventional way of roasting meat over a hot iron plate. Too many meat restaurants are already serving meat in such a way. I felt the need to find a new way.” That’s the reason Choi Yeun-wook, CEO of VSCOMPANY, took over Mr. Tandull in 2014.
He explains, “At Mr. Tandull, you can find the combination of the culinary cultures of Korea, Brazil, and India―an Indian oven, Brazilian roasted skewers, and Koreans’ favorite parts of meat, pork belly and pork neck.”
His idea hit a nerve. He was able to open six restaurants in Korea, and buyers from China, Singapore, and other countries started to show interest. Mr. Choi said, “One buyer from Singapore was hooked on Mr. Tandull while staying in Korea, and we are now negotiating a contract with him. Businessmen from Hangzhou and Zhuhai in China are also interested in Mr. Tandull and want to sign a contract.”
As Mr. Tandull is coming close to advancing abroad, Mr. Choi is contemplating strategies tailored to foreign consumers. He said, “Franchises modify their strategies, for example by changing the menu, in order to suit the taste and lifestyle of local consumers. For instance, KFC in China offers rice.” And he shared his plan, “We will add tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake) and japchae (stir-fried glass noodles and vegetables) to the existing menu because they are popular in China and Southeastern Asia.”
The ambitions of Mr. Choi don’t stop with the overseas expansion of Mr. Tandull and Benttorang. He says, “By 2023, we will have developed 50 different brands, and with the experience VSCOMPANY will have gained, we would like to pass the knowhow to the domestic companies that are looking toward foreign markets.” He spoke of his other aspirations as well, “For now, since we don’t need such a large amount of farm products, we don’t deal directly with farmers. In the future, however, I would like to obtain ingredients through contract farming. I think the wealthier the farmers are, the healthier the produce they grow will be. Thus, if the farmers are able to grow higher value-added produce and we can connect farmers with restaurants, a new eating-out culture will be created.”
Mr. Choi stressed, “The added value of the future comes from agriculture.” It will be interesting to observe how he will be able to link Mr. Tandull, Benttorang, and his future brands with Korean agriculture.
Plenty of Tasty Foods in One Box, Benttorang
VSCOMPANY is propelling the lunch box brand Benttorang along with the Mr. Tandull brand. Benttorang stands for a lunch box, and its biggest merit is that people can try both Korean and Japanese foods in just one lunch box. The menu includes Jagirang (which consists of several crunchy fried foods), Geudaerang (which gives you a taste of raw salmon and barbecue chasyu-udong), a variety of croquettes, bowls of rice served with toppings, and rolls. The brand is gaining momentum in entering the global market: it is about to open stores in Korea and China.
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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