Ryan and Leena Rommann, who arrived in Lacey two years ago after professional careers abroad, came to the area to launch their first business: A healthful fast-food restaurant that emphasized Korean food and served rolls, bowls and salads.
The 1,000-square-foot location on Lacey Boulevard that opened in October 2015 was successful enough that the Rommanns opened a second location north of Interstate 5 in Lacey Oct. 4.
The business launched as MiSo Asian, but is now known as MiSo Fit Fast Fresh.
The Olympian talked with the Rommanns to ask them five questions about the business learning curve.
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Q: What did you learn about the business?
A: (Ryan) We learned a lot and we are still learning. When we first started, we emphasized more Korean food, but now it’s somewhat Asian food that is focused on being healthy, affordable and fast. It takes time to build a customer base, but we’ve tried to through uniform quality, customer service and really investing in our employees. I thought we would unlock the door and there would be 100 customers. That was not the case.
Q: How do you handle online reviews about your business?
A: (Ryan) You have to have thick skin. Some people will never like our food and we realize that we can never accommodate them. But take advantage of the positive comments and the people who want to help you get better. That kind of feedback led us to change some sauces and switch to biodegradable bowls. We’ve adapted.
Q: If I want to open a restaurant, what should I do?
A: (Leena) Get ready to work hard. The first year will be hard and it will be seven days a week. And when you get home, you will still have to work on the business. (Ryan) It’s rewarding, but it’s also tiring, exhausting work.
Q: What have you learned about hiring?
A: (Ryan) Training employees how to make food is easy, but we can’t train them to be nice, so we hire based on kindness, friendliness, and professionalism, and invest in our employees. We’ve had to let people go, but we haven’t had an employee quit, which is unheard of in this industry. We try to promote them as quickly as we can. We try to treat them with respect because we can’t do this business without them.
Q: What have you learned about firing?
A: (Ryan) It’s one of the toughest decisions you will make as an employer. (Leena) Even if we have to let someone go, it’s nothing personal. It’s about work and business. And we need our employees. We’ve been lucky: 60 to 70 percent of our employees were former customers.
MiSo Fit Fast Fresh
▪ Owners: Ryan and Leena Rommann
▪ Years in business: 2.
▪ Number of locations: 2. The restaurants are at 4514 Lacey Boulevard SE and 2539 Marvin Road NE. A grand opening for the Marvin Road location is planned for later this month.
▪ Employees: 13
▪ Hours: Lacey Boulevard: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Marvin Road: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
▪ Online: http://www.misofitfastfresh.com/