SBDC Template


Chopsticks Vietnamese Restaurant

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What makes a new restaurant unique? A flashy space, an artisan menu? At Chopsticks Vietnamese Restaurant in Brighton, Colorado, it takes a careful balance of fresh food, community and family, brought together by owner Hieu Nguyen. The menu is straight from the streets of Saigon, created by her aunt, Khue Tran, who spent 18 years in Vietnamese restaurants before coming to the United States. At Chopsticks, you won’t find a recipe book or canned sauces; they pride themselves on making everything on the menu from scratch, right down to the fish sauce. 

As of July 2015, Chopsticks has been open for about two months. Several times each week, Hieu heads to market to buy fresh vegetables for the restaurant, which are all cut to order for each dish. They also use a fresh wok for each dish, making it easy to accommodate food allergies and dietary restrictions. “It is a lot of work, but definitely worth it,” says Hieu. This commitment to freshness and cleanliness comes from a deep desire to provide excellent customer service to their community. “We strive to provide a cozy environment where everyone and his or her family will feel at home enjoying authentic and flavorful Vietnamese food.”

Hieu was born in Vietnam and came to the United States at 9 years old, eventually graduating from CU Denver with degrees in International Business and Accounting. She noticed while working in the banking industry she had increasingly little time to spend with her family, which is what inspired her to open the restaurant. “It gives the whole family a chance to work together. With five family members here, work-life balance becomes easier and we get to spend more time together.” 

Getting to opening day posed several challenges. They needed assistance with paperwork, marketing ideas and a network of support, which Hieu says the SBDC was crucial in providing. Simply put, “Without the SBDC, we wouldn’t be open.” An unforeseen challenge of the restaurant was that other than Hieu’s aunt and mom, none of the family had worked food service before. “We had to learn the rhythm of the family,” says Hieu, “and it nearly drove us crazy!” After a rocky two weeks, the family smoothed out the bumps in the road much to the enjoyment of their developing regular customer base. Beyond getting to know their customers, Hieu’s favorite part of the process has been building their menu. “My aunt creates all of the dishes from scratch, so we had to give a lot of feedback. We have over 100 dishes on the menu!” Her favorite item is the taro boba tea: a fruity, Vietnamese smoothie with chewy tapioca balls at the bottom.

Although the process has been challenging, Hieu encourages other entrepreneurs to take a chance. “Just do it! Don’t be afraid or you’ll regret it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are always people willing to help.”