Founded in 2010 by Jae Kim, Chi’Lantro is a Korean BBQ food truck based in Austin, Texas. The company serves a fusion of Mexican and Korean barbecue, with a menu that includes kimchi fries, chicken wings, rice bowls seasoned with Asian flavors and tacos. The business has eight brick and mortar restaurants, as well as a fleet of food trucks. The company has been featured on the Food Network and Cooking Channel. It has earned the Huffington Post’s “best food truck” award and has appeared on Shark Tank. Its original kimchi fries are served 200,000 times a year, and the business has earned $9 million in sales since the show aired in November 2016.
The founder of Chi’Lantro, Jae Kim, began his food truck business in 2010, after moving to the United States from Korea at the age of 11. Kim has since opened four brick and mortar locations, as well as a fleet of food truck branches, with a total of eight locations in the Austin area. He has also been featured on the Food Network, Cooking Channel, and Shark Tank. The success of his Korean and Mexican fusion BBQ concept has led him to expand the business into three more restaurants, a catering business, and a series of food trucks.
Jae Kim first auditioned for Shark Tank in 2012, but he didn’t make the cut. He had a dream of creating a chain of fifteen Chi’Lantro restaurants, and needed outside capital to grow. He maxed out his credit cards to survive, and applied for admission to the show a second time. He made the cut this time, and was invited to appear on the show. However, he was unable to secure a deal with Barbara Corcoran. In the end, he requested a $600,000 investment in exchange for a 15 percent stake in the company. She agreed, and gave him a 20% stake in the company for $500,000.
The CEO of Chi’Lantro is also the CEO of a fleet of food trucks. The company’s Original Kimchi Fries are hot french fries with homemade caramelized kimchi. The Chi’Lantro Family pack, which feeds six people, costs $60. The company donates proceeds to families affected by the recent rise in unemployment. They have also been featured on the Food Network and Food and Wine magazine.
After the appearance on Shark Tank, the Korean BBQ brand gained a national reputation. It has been a hit on Instagram and Facebook. They have been awarded several accolades, including the Huffington Post’s “best” food truck award at SXSW 2014. They have eight dine-in and food truck branches, and are scheduled to open two more in 2017 and another in January. The company’s kimchi fries have become a fan favorite. In the past year, the business has grossed about $4.7 million in sales, which is well above the company’s valuation of $3 million.
While the majority of the business is run by Jae, there are also a few other people working with the company. The current CEO, a man named Kevin O’Leary, said he doesn’t like to lease spaces, and that he’s invested in other restaurants before. But, he’s impressed by the business’s growth and the owner’s resilience. He hopes to attract a Shark Tank investor to the business.