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Saving Old Chinese Takeout Spots

From the Editor: Everything you missed in food news last week

A woman walks by a busy restaurant
Junzi in New York City
Junzi Kitchen [Official Photo]

This post originally appeared on November 16, 2019, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

This week, I just want to call out a cool story, one I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Yong Zhao, the owner of the relatively new fast-casual Chinese chain Junzi Kitchen, is going to tap into an investment fund to buy up old Chinese-American takeout spots. His idea is to offer the owners a way to retire while keeping their restaurants alive. Junzi will maintain the menus and identities while modernizing everything else about the operation and (I presume) using the network of restaurants to create scale.

It’s easier said than done, of course, but I love a novel approach to the difficult business of restaurants, and especially one with an eye toward preservation of culture. Considering he’s specifically focusing on super-casual takeout spots — versus high-end or highly specialized concepts — it seems achievable. I also love that he’s starting a $5 million (and not a $50 million) fund for this enterprise and for Junzi as a whole, given the current climate of eight-figure investment rounds and wild valuations for anyone doing something scalable and novel in the food space.

He and culinary director (and Eater Young Gun) Lucas Sin have said they plan to have 50 Junzi locations across the United States in the next few years.

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