Small Restaurants Become Big Business

Some out-earn major chain restaurants with lower cost and online expansion.

Small Restaurants Become Big Business

Photo: Crowd lines up for Seongsimdang bakery. Credit: Chungcheong Today.

As COVID-19 restrictions fall away, restaurant business is picking up again. According to the annual report from the Financial Supervisory Service 금융감독원, several top restaurants have achieved more than KRW 10b (USD 7.4m) in annual sales. Some of these restaurants enjoy greater profit than major chains. Seongsimdang 성심당, a bakery and local institution in Daejeon 대전, had an operating profit of KRW 31.5b (USD 23.2m) in 2023, outpacing international chain bakeries such as Paris Baguette 파리바게뜨 (KRW 19.9b) and Tous les Jours 뚜레쥬르 (KRW 21.4b).

Smaller operations achieve higher margins by leveraging lower operating costs. Myeongdong Gyoza 명동교자, a knife-cut noodle 칼국수 restaurant in Seoul, grossed KRW 27.9b (USD 20.5m) last year with a healthy KRW 9.8b (USD 7.2m) in operating profit, due in part to the fact that the restaurant, which opened in 1966, owns its building, which is located in the heart of Seoul’s tourism district. 

Some restaurants have also branched into the online sales and meal kit business. One such restaurant is Samiheon 사미헌, a ribeye-soup 갈비탕 restaurant in Busan 부산 which grossed KRW 38.2b (USD 28m) in 2023, with an operating profit of KRW 2.4b (USD 1.8m). More than two-thirds of Samiheon’s operating profit comes from its meal kit business rather than the physical restaurant.

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