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Meet Angie Yi of Sumo Japanese Steakhouse in Villa Rica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angie Yi.

Angie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I went to school for business, but I have always worked in a restaurant while pursuing my degree. Over the years, I have been a host, server, busser, kitchen staff, and key employee. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I started working as an accounts payable manager and later became a payroll manager at the same company. At the same time, I went to school to pursue my MBA.

My husband’s aunt and uncle opened Sumo in 2007, and I would help out here and there. After having our third child, I started helping at the restaurant more often.

Somewhere along the way, they brought up wanting to sell one of their restaurants, but we declined because it was so far away. I jokingly mentioned that if they wanted to sell the Villa Rica location, we would go for it. They took me seriously.

After speaking to my husband, we decided that it was something that we could actually pursue. I began researching and writing out a business plan. We found a broker to help us find a lender. Everything began falling into place.

Has it been a smooth road?
In the beginning, our concern was finding a lender who would take us seriously. We were young and inexperienced when it came to running a business. Thankfully, our families helped us to collect the down payment we needed to secure a loan, but even with a down payment, getting a loan approved wasn’t guaranteed, so we were on edge for quite a while.

After buying the restaurant, my concern was whether the employees would respect and listen to me. I’m a female that’s younger than many of them, and many had already been there for a long time. They also worked with me as a fellow employee, so switching to being their boss was a bit terrifying.

Surprisingly, the employees were a lot of help. They didn’t sit back and just watch me fail. I think that them seeing me come in early and working as hard as I could help me to earn their respect. At first, I would unload supplies and do a lot of grunt work on my own. I didn’t just rely on my employees to do all of the work but showed them that I was willing to put in effort as well. I even helped to bus tables and wash dishes when needed.

Eventually, they would start asking if I needed help. Now, they come and help me without me having to say anything. Of course, we have our problems, just like any other business, but I am very thankful to my staff for sticking with me. I know they were worried about how the restaurant would fare after this inexperienced owner took over.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Sumo Japanese Steakhouse – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Sumo is a Japanese hibachi and sushi restaurant. We have been located in the same spot, in the Mirror Lake Shopping Center, for almost ten years.

I think that the most impressive thing about us is our extremely low turnover. You’re going to see very few new faces here. In fact, some employees have been here since the restaurant opened 10 years ago. Our guests know who we are, and many of them feel like a part of the family. The lower turnover leads to higher consistency, which keeps our percentage of regulars pretty high.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
To me, flexibility is extremely important. You can’t treat the same situation in the same manner every time. This means that the manager or I must listen and get to know the people we are dealing with. Usually, we are able to turn things around so that instead of losing a customer, we create a regular by showing that we are taking their thoughts and feelings into consideration.

Of course, this does not happen 100 percent of the time. We can’t make everyone happy, and I don’t believe that customers are always right. Still, I take pride in that we try our best to right situations, even if it negatively affects me.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Sovannarith Tap

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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