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Meet the Stars of SBR

October 22, 2019

Ann Kim Inspires Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant with Focused Menu, More Help, Wider Client Base

Author: Jen Amundson, Deluxe Director of Social Media and Communications

Is the 2019 winner of the James Beard Award for “Best Chef in the Midwest” too busy to volunteer a helping hand to a struggling restaurateur? Absolutely not. Ann Kim is featured in Episode 2 of Season 4 of Small Business Revolution. There she sits in a small strip mall in Searcy, Arkansas, tearfully holding hands with Whilma Frogoso, emotional over the potential her humble restaurant has.

Kim is a perfect fit for the Frogoso family and Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant. Ann was raised in an immigrant family herself and went into the restaurant business to share her love of well-prepared, creative cuisine. The influence of her upbringing is everywhere in her successful restaurants, located in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where unique dishes such as pizza with kimchi grace a beautiful menu. The appreciation of her work extends all the way to the prestigious international awards. The capstone came in 2019 when Ann received the James Beard Award.

Deluxe connected Ann with Whilma and her family to make their business more profitable and less painful for the Frogosos. Whilma struggled with several problems. She needed to attract customers beyond the nearby college students, who disappear in the summer. She was overwhelmed being the only chef, working 9 am to 9 pm every day. And, her menu was complex, with many dishes and size options.

Ann started with the menu. She explained how too many recipes might be cutting into Whilma’s profits, by creating a need for a lot of perishable inventory on hand. She also suggested simplifying the options of portion sizes from three to one, to reduce confusion, standardize plating and increase sales when customers order more than one. Finally, she advised adding the family’s story to the menu by naming a special dish after the man who inspired it: Whilma’s father, Protacio.

Next, Ann tackled the issue of getting Whilma some more help in the kitchen. While Whilma’s children are active in the business, they cannot always be there and they themselves were getting worn down. Ann advised that she struggled too when the success of her business meant she needed to hand over some control to other people. She introduced Whilma to another chef/manager at her restaurant and showed the family her prep kitchen full of staff spending the day getting as much ready as possible beforehand to be ready for the dinner rush. Whilma was so inspired by the teamwork that she moved quickly to hire a helper, who was in place before we finished filming the episodes.

Finally, Ann talked about how to bring in more varied customers. Whilma loves the college students and loads their orders so they will have enough to eat. But when they go home to their parents’ cooking in the summer, business dwindles. Ann reinforced the advice that Whilma was hearing from the team at Deluxe: by sharing her story on her website, through social media and in her interactions with customers, she could attract a wider fanbase that would sustain the restaurant during the summer months. The Frogosos have started to host a kamayan dinner, an Instagram-inspiring feast served family-style on banana leaves placed in the center of the table. The meals are a special experience that brings in customers with a little more to spend. By highlighting a unique cultural experience, Whilma’s Filipino restaurant can become, in Kim’s words, a destination restaurant in Arkansas.

Watch the full episode by clicking here.

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