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Why Saucy Asian Switched to Toast Not Once, but Twice
The Bay Area Korean restaurant learned that while a cheaper point of sale platform can be enticing, Toast was the right fit for the growing business.
Saucy Asian owner, Andrew Shinn, is no stranger to working in the restaurant industry.
“My freshman year of college, I started bussing tables and washing dishes. That was my first step into the food industry,” he shared. “Then, I became a waiter and worked through college. At 21, my dad bought a sandwich shop, and I learned how to run ownership, management, employees, and just everything that comes along with owning a restaurant.”
But sandwiches weren’t exactly Andrew’s passion. “I’m Korean,” said Shinn. “We don’t have sandwiches in Korea.”
Spending the majority of his 20s living in Korea for graduate school, Shinn continued working in the food industry and experienced the vibrant nightlife the city of Seoul had to offer. He noticed that it was a stark difference from his experience growing up in San Francisco, CA.
“I grew up in the Bay Area, and there was not that much Korean food here. If we wanted Korean food, there was really only one or two places that we would go to,” he said. “ And it was very traditional. You sit down, you get a bunch of side plates, and it’s expensive. Just a whole ordeal.”
Bringing Korean street food-inspired fusion — and fun — to the Bay Area
When Shinn returned to the United States, he realized that continuing to work in restaurants was a no-brainer. But this time, he wanted to work for himself.
“When I came back to the Bay Area I thought, ‘Food is kind of all I know.’ I wanted to start a concept that I can’t really separate myself from — something that I’m passionate about.”
For Shinn, starting a restaurant was more than just sharing the Korean food he knew and loved — it was about bringing the fun of Seoul nightlife to the Bay Area. “I wanted to spread the fun and excitement that I felt when I was in Korea,” he shared. “So, Saucy Asian is what I came up with and through the branding and design process, I always kept that in my mind. This is not just about the food. How can we make it so that when people walk in — what they see, what they hear, what they smell — it’s all reminiscent of what I experienced back in Korea?”
And by all accounts — Shinn has succeeded in bringing that vision to life ever since opening the doors of Saucy Asian in 2017. The walls of the restaurant are covered in murals of Korean alleyways, with neon signs and stickered support beams. Just a few minutes inside the restaurant, and you’ll be wondering if you’re still in California.
More than anything, Shinn hopes that Saucy Asian can be a fun, delicious, and comfortable place for folks to discover new foods. “I just want it to be a segue into introducing Korean flavors to people who maybe haven’t tried it,” he shared.
Leaving legacy point of sale systems in the past
Since Shinn had worked in restaurants since college, he had quite a bit of experience using point of sale (POS) systems. “I’m used to using legacy systems,” he shared. “Aloha was my favorite when I was a waiter but, I mean, damn… when I think about trying to use Aloha now? No way. Super bulky.”
When he purchased the space that Saucy Asian is now in, the previous owners — who ran a cafe — were using NCR Silver. Shinn tried to adopt it for Saucy Asian but quickly found that it wasn’t the right fit. “I just felt it was not what I was looking for [in a POS] at all.”
After one of the Saucy Asian designers recommended Toast to Shinn, he decided to give it a shot. “Once I signed on and started playing with the backend, I was impressed,” he said. “And still to this day, I’m impressed. When I need to make a change, I go in there and what I need is already there. [Toast] pretty much has everything that I need.”
Shinn, like many restaurant owners, isn’t shy about sharing his true feelings on POS platforms.
“Normally, POS is a restaurant owner’s headache,” Shinn laughed. “And you guys are not,” he added. “Every other POS I’ve used at a restaurant, it’s just burdensome. Toast is efficient. It makes my life easier.”
“I only lasted with them for five months before I decided to go back to Toast.”
But coming out of the COVID pandemic and pivoting to a franchise model, Shinn started to wonder if he could get the same benefit of Toast POS at a lower cost by switching to a different cloud-based POS system.
“At the time, we were working on franchising and I was thinking 5, 10, even 15 years in the future,” Shinn shared. Cost savings were top of mind for the business, and he was trying to find ways to keep growing at scale.
So, after a period of consideration, Saucy Asian decided to switch to SpotOn. “I moved over to SpotOn and — oh, man — it’s just one of the biggest mistakes that I made in 2022,” Shinn shared. “It was just a headache from the get-go. I think I only lasted with them for five months before I decided to go back to Toast.”
While Saucy Asian may have been saving a bit of money with the switch, they were suddenly lacking features that were essential to running their business. In addition, they were facing technical issues that were going on with no fix in sight. It was clear that SpotOn wasn’t going to work for Saucy Asian — the cost savings just weren’t worth the hassle.
When asked if he considered any other POS platforms before making the decision to switch back to Toast, he said, “No. It was immediately back to Toast,” noting that the Toast team made it easy to switch back and get set up without any downtime. Shinn said that the stability the company provided during the pandemic was a big reason he didn’t think twice about the decision. “Toast was very, very solid and stable. That’s one thing I did not have to think about [during the pandemic],” he said. “When I think about that now, I appreciate that very much.” Shinn went on to share:
“Through [the pandemic], Toast was just super, super steady and stable. So stable, that I didn’t even have to think about it. It was able to handle everything that I needed or wanted it to do. In an industry that is so hectic, I think that’s key. It’s almost like it’s running in the background.”
Growing with Toast as a trusted partner
Looking towards the future, Shinn is excited to keep growing the Saucy Asian brand and expand into new areas via franchising.
“Success [in a few years] would look like me being able to focus just on growth,” he shared. “Success would look like really qualified candidates wanting to open Saucy Asians and success would look like there being a buzz around Korean food and it becoming mainstream.”
But, for now, Shinn is just happy to be back with Toast.
“I appreciate you guys so much. Everyone I’ve dealt with at Toast knows what they’re doing and is super nice. I love the professionalism of everyone that I make contact with, and it shows in your product. It shows in the interactions that I have with you guys. I hope that it only grows — Toast as a company, Saucy Asian as a company, and our relationship as well.”
And it doesn’t hurt that Toast already has large, multi-unit customers for Saucy Asian to look up to.
“[It really helps] knowing that when I’m ready, I can just contact you guys and know that the process is going to be smooth for me as a corporate owner and also for the franchisee.” He shared. “Just knowing that I’ll have all the information I need on the backend as an enterprise instead of just one store. Knowing that you guys have larger clients that are already doing what I’m planning to do… I think that helps the most.”
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