Rob Cho of Kimchi Smoke in Westwood, NJ fills us in on how his restaurant, which has stayed open throughout the pandemic, has handled social distancing and indoor dining. Kimchi Smoke has participated in Food Karma events for over five years and placed second overall and took home the People’s Choice Award at Brisket King NYC 2019. You can order pickup or delivery from the restaurant, including bottles of Cho’s new Fat Cho sauce, here.
Food Karma: Did you fully close at any point?
Rob Cho:During the first weeks of the crisis, I was scared and didn’t know if the government would shut me down. I slept on it, and when I woke up, I decided
that I would open and stay open as long as I was allowed.
FK: What changes have you made during the pandemic?
RC: For almost 2 months, I ran the operations by myself. The only way I could keep social distancing was to be alone until I figured out or learned what the most safe way to do everything was. I eventually brought back most of my team, and we only do take out. Although we are allowed to have 25% capacity for indoor dining, I elected not to do so. On a personal level, the pandemic forced me to cook more, and now I’m much better all around in the kitchen than I was before.
FK: What have you learned about your business?
RC: We have a great fan base, and people have been extremely supportive and appreciative of our efforts to stay open.
FK: How do you feel about the information/lack of information and support/lack of support from authorities?
RC: I’m confused about all the information out there. It makes no sense or even scientific sense to say that people can eat inside my restaurant without masks on but my staff has to wear a mask at all times.
FK: Do you have hope for the future?
RC: Yes, all I can do is hope and I shall continue to do what I have been doing until they say I can’t anymore. If things get worse, my hope is to sell more of my Fatcho BBQ Sauce, which I recently launched.
FK: What are you looking forward to?
RC: I take each day and week one at a time. As long as my family is safe and healthy, I try to stay positive. For the business, I look forward to feeding people, and even the brief encounters and conversations I have with my customers and the delivery drivers keep me connected and a part of the larger community.
FK: Anything else you want to share?
RC: I feel bad for all the businesses and religious institutions that were forced to close or unable to meet. In these times of uncertainty, we could have used the most encouragement from others, and it’s a shame that many people were forced to isolate. I want to thank everyone who has shown their support in person and on social media, it has helped me get through this year.