By: Saraana Jamraj
When Yuan Fu, Hong Da Chen, and Johnny Nguyen immigrated to America, they didn’t yet know they would one day open a successful franchise that redefined the American-Asian buffet experience.
And, they certainly didn’t know they would do it in Tamarac.
Chen, 47, the owner of Chow Time Grill & Buffet, immigrated to America from China 30 years ago, as did co-owner Fu, 47. The manager, Nguyen, 52, has lived here for almost 40 years, after immigrating from Vietnam.
Both Fu and Nguyen are the brothers-in-law of Chen, having married his sisters.
After all, Chow Time is, and always has been a family business.
Growing up in the restaurant business, they embarked on their own in 2008, when they founded the very first Chow Time in Panama City. It’s been just over a decade since then, and they’ve already opened up 14 restaurants, with four more on the way in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa.
Since opening in Tamarac their 12th restaurant in the franchise in 2018, they’ve become a hotspot. Their customers typically have been there before. From locals at Kings Point to tourists who see their advertisements near the airport, they’re committed to keeping the food and service high-quality.
“We never overstock our food. We keep it fresh,” said Nguyen.
He described how they order their food supply every night for the next morning, based on how many customers they had that day.
Offering a variety of cuisine ranging from American classics like mac n’ cheese, fried chicken, and honey ham, to Japanese inspired-favorites like hibachi and sushi, Chow Time has plenty of Chinese staples like sesame chicken, pepper steak, and lo mein to please customer’s palates.
While they keep customer’s favorites, they rotate their menu every two weeks and continuously come up with new creations to keep the taste palettes of their guests satisfied. For instance, their latest offering, cajun seafood, has been a hit with guests.
Their methods have paid off. In addition to opening restaurants, they’ve also been able to keep the reputation of each restaurant up. Nguyen said that customers appreciate how clean their business is, how delicious the food is, and how friendly the service is. Their Tamarac restaurant, has a 4.3 star Google ratings, with over 2,000 reviews.
Still, they aim to improve continuously.
“No matter how good we are, we have to learn from our customers every single day to improve our business,” said Nguyen.
As their operation has expanded, so has the distance between them: Chen lives in Atlanta, Fu in Coral Springs, and Nguyen is in Tallahassee. Still, they are passionate about growing the business they started together, and thankful for all the friends they’ve met along the way.
“The restaurant business is hard, but fun. It makes us learn more things every day and makes us more friends,” said Nguyen.
And, even as they expand to other cities, they treasure the communities around which each restaurant has been built.
“The people love us and give us a lot of support, and Chow Time tries to do a lot for the community,” said Nguyen. “Wherever there’s an event in the city, like Taste of Tamarac, if the city needs help, we’re there for them.”
Chow Time Grill & Buffet is located at 6997 W Commercial Blvd in Tamarac.
- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.
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