VIDEO: Kent Chen of Uni Uni - How to Run a Successful Franchise

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

INFI: All right, so thanks, Kent. So Kent, you own or operate a few different bubble tea establishments and restaurants in Chicago's Chinatown, right?

Chen: Yes.

INFI: All right. So you do Elitea; you just opened up UNI UNI. What else do you own? And what got you into the restaurant industry?

Chen: Actually, just a brief introduction to my background. I majored in mechanical engineering, and my full-time job is in engineering. But my working time is 7:30, normally working time is 7:30 to 3:30, so that's a lot of time after work just thinking of what else I can do I mean in the United States as a foreigner, as a Chinese immigrant. I mean, the food industry is very easy to step into being Chinese, because Chinese food, it's a kind of a specialty in America.

Actually, I started a restaurant, we cooked Chinese food. We opened a small restaurant in Chinatown. Actually, it was in the food court in Chinatown. After like about eight to nine months of operation, I felt it's very hard to operate it without being on-site because it's highly reliant on the chef. So eventually, the chef said, oh, you guys are not here, so I'm operating in the restaurant. So you guys have to pay me more and more and more.

So you know it didn’t work at the end. We thought about it, we have to do something to standardize our price, standardized operation. So bubble tea is what brought to our vision back then because there was only a couple, only a few bubble tea stores in Chicago back then. It's not like now, it's very competitive. But it was a very good time to bring it in. And personally, I like drinking bubble tea, and I felt the market back then can go better. So that's why I said yes, I'll do it.

So we brought in a corporate trainer, he's from Taiwan. He worked in the bubble tea industry for a long time. So he came here, researched the market, and he set up the whole product line based on the market for us. That's how Uni Uni is established.

Creating Brand vs. Business

INFI: What are the differences between building a brand and running a business?

Chen: This year, I mean after creating the Uni Uni, our mission is not just the renting of bubble tea store, it’s to expand the brand, it's branding. So branding is totally different than running just one single bubble tea store. Because in the past, what we were thinking is to put all our effort into one store, on the Uni Uni store.