Asian street food restaurant opens in Oldsmar, plans nine more units
Even though he has 15 Tin Drum Asian Kitchen units in the greater Atlanta market and one in Oldsmar, founder Steven Chan doesn’t consider himself a wok star. “If anything I’m a line cook,” he said by phone from Atlanta. Tin Drum specializes in Asian street food, but goes a step further by, Chan says, “capturing the hustle and bustle and energy of the streets. It makes the food more exciting and enjoyable that way.”
The restaurant employs lots of neon lighting; the kitchens are near the entrances. Chan knows the right touches. He grew up in Hong Kong, and became accustomed to high-density dining environments. ” Asian street food has become more or less a branding term,” he said. “But I’m from Asia; I grew up in the streets. Tin Drum’s food is more like what you would buy off a cart there.”
Chan studied urban planning, construction and design at Georgia Tech University. He married into a restaurant family that owned a series of full-service Thai places. “My in-laws had the recipes and food knowledge; I build things,” he said. He’s good with systems, too. Tin Drum was conceived as a chain. “For lack of a better word, I engineered the complexity of the operation into something more simple,” he said.
The first Tin Drum Asian Kitchen opened in 2003 on the campus of Georgia Tech. Chan opened about one a year for seven years hence. He dabbled in other restaurant concepts as well, but in 2011 decided to focus on his prime brand. He brought in a partner, Scott Presly, and they took a couple of years to fine-tune their system and build a franchise program.
There are four franchise units in greater Atlanta. The 2,600-square-foot Oldsmar store — the first outside of Atlanta — is in a shopping center near Chili’s, Starbucks, Panera Bread and other chains. There’s plenty of rooftops and vehicle traffic in the area, but it’s also decidedly suburban. Tin Drum’s biggest challenge is to get families to try its comparatively exotic cuisine and atmosphere.
“So far so good,” is how Chan describes the restaurant’s results after about a month. His franchisee is Robert Laurens, who splits time between Atlanta and a home on Belleair Beach.
Both franchisee and franchisor have their sights set on more urban locations for subsequent local Tin Drum Asian Kitchens. Their forecast says this market will accommodate 10 total units. Chan said Laurens is already scouting real estate for the next one in Bay area.<< Back