|Sonny in action|
The first small business story focuses on a restaurant that I've loved for several years now, and is always the first restaurant I visit when I'm back in Connecticut - Singapore's Grill and Sushi Bar. Though I'm not a vegetarian, I order off of the vegetarian/vegan menu because my favorite dishes are the eggplant dish and the lemongrass tofu dish (FYI they are SO good). My friends, A & A, have become good friends with Sonny, the owner of Singapore's Grill, and they helped me to set up an interview - thanks A & A!
So, now on to a chat with Sonny!
1) Tell us a bit about the history of Singapore's Grill and Sushi Bar.
I opened Singapore's Grill and Sushi Bar in 2001. I previously had worked in numerous restaurants and cooking has always been my hobby. Initially, my siblings and I decided that we would open a restaurant together. Eventually, I left my job and took over the restaurant and now I am the sole owner. I wanted to create a restaurant that had unique sushi with Southeast Asian influences.
2) What is your favorite thing about owning and running your restaurant?
I am a people person and I'm also creative. I love being able to create relationships with customers and have them enjoy my food. I also put a lot of creativity into my menu and the flavors that I use. Singapore is a very diverse country; therefore, the food I serve is flavored with the spices that you'd find in Indian, Chinese, Malay, and Japanese cuisines.
I also like the community that I have with other small business owners. Sometimes we share equipment or ingredients and just generally help each other out.
3) What are the most challenging things about being a small business owner?
The most challenging thing for me is to find hardworking and reliable employees.
4) What's your day to day life like as a business owner?
I have a family so I do my best to spend my off-time with them, but I pretty much work all-day every day. Also, many of my return customers have my cell phone number to place orders or book catering, so even if I'm not at the restaurant I'm always working. I go to bed thinking about work and I wake up thinking about work - so, I guess that this is also another challenging thing about being a small business owner. You give up a lot.
5) What is your favorite dish to cook?
My favorite sushi to make are the Black Dragon (shrimp with a sweet and crunchy taste) and the Crazy Roll (cucumber, avocado, salmon). My favorite dishes to cook are the Mango Dish, which was my first signature dish, and the Sambai, which is shrimp, pork, and rice noodles.
6) What inspired you to open your restaurant?
When I was a kid I thought about being a lawyer or a hotel manager because I love working with people. Growing up, my family all had their own businesses and my grandmother owned a very successful Indian restaurant in Singapore, so it ended up being a natural transition.
7) How do you advertise your business?
I currently don't advertise my business. We've been open for more than 10 years and our two biggest drivers of customers are 1) word of mouth and 2) great reviews on websites like TripAdvisor. As long as your produce good food and create a nice experience for diners people will come to you.
8) What are your most popular dishes?
My most popular dishes seem to trend depending on what dish has been recently mentioned on social media or in reviews. Currently, the Dynamite Roll, the Spicy Mango, the Crispy Spicy Beef, and the Grilled Pineapple Chicken. All of the appetizers are always very popular.
9) Can you give us a bit of a background on Singaporean food?
Singaporean food is really focused on curries and noodles. I probably eat about 10 or more noodle meals a week. Coconut rice, satay, and fried ice cream are also popular.
10) You have a vegan and vegetarian menu. Can you tell me about how it started?
Vegan and vegetarian customers helped put the menu together. The menu is very unique because I had to try out new things. For example, I have one customer who loves tofu so I asked him what else he likes and created a special dish for him. The same with our eggplant dish.
11) Where can my readers and I connect with you online?
Singapore's Grill and Sushi Bar is located on 938 Bank Street in New London, Connecticut. They are open from 11 am until 10 pm.
Thank you so much, Sonny, for taking the time out of your busy day to be interviewed. I absolutely loved learning more about Singapore's Grill and Sushi Bar!
If you are interested in having your small business featured in this series please contact me and we can chat.