Brunch restaurants have been hugely popular among single professional women in Seoul for several years, and none more so than Suji's in Seoul's Itaewon. Four years ago Suji Park, who used to be a professional working woman in New York, upon her return to Korea decided to open a restaurant that offers wholesome New York-style American food. Suji's offers the real thing, not an adulterated version supposedly reinvented for Korean palates. She now has two other branches in COEX, Samseong-dong, Seoul, and in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province. Last year, she opened a fourth branch in Tokyo.
Park says the key to her success was that she read the market's needs accurately. "I thought there weren't many places for expats in Korea to enjoy their meals comfortably at the weekend or even for dinner on weekdays," she says. "It's the same when we live in a different country: we yearn for a Korean restaurant that serves proper and authentic Korean food. When I came back to Korea, I sometimes missed the food I used to have in the U.S., but it was difficult to find a restaurant that served it. That's where I got my idea from."
Park decided to target Americans living in Korea and Koreans who had lived in the U.S., which explains why she opened her first branch in Itaewon and made the menu and service readable and accessible for foreigners. Suji's was an instant hit, always crowded with guests queuing for their turn. The most popular dishes at Suji's are meatloaf and omelet, which are probably to Americans what soy bean soup is to Koreans. The key is to make it authentic.
Park says she feels immense satisfaction as she achieves one goal at a time. Last year she went to Japan and opened another Suji's in Tokyo. There too, her food was praised in the media, and even appeared on CNN. Suji's brunch menu was named as one of the "best of the best" in the world.
"I plan to open a branch in Singapore in a few years. After conquering the Asian market step by step, I want to open Suji's in Europe and make it a worldwide brand. That is my goal," Park confides.