Orlando King Bao owner talks about future of business, franchising and opening a vegan restaurant

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ORLANDO, Florida – Chef Vic Nguyen opened his bao bun-focused restaurant, King Bao, along Mills Avenue in Orlando’s Mills 50 neighborhood in 2016 during his wife’s pregnancy.

“I was making sushi (at Shari Sushi Lounge) back then, and then I had to find something where I could stay at home and not have to work as a chef all the time,” Nguyen said. “I thought I was going to do some sort of sandwich shop, then my brother had the idea to do a bao restaurant … he gave me the idea and I ran with it.”

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Now, Nguyen is preparing to open King Bao’s third location in 2022. The new King Bao will sit at 1881 W. Fairbanks Ave.

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The location was home to the second location of Bad As’s Sandwich, which closed in July.

Nguyen said the Winter Park location will largely be used to support the other two King Bao restaurants, helping to manage delivery and catering orders.

“It’s kind of like a ghost kitchen where we’re just going to get the other stores ready and simplify things for the other stores,” the chef said.

He added that while the Winter Park location will largely support other restaurants, it will still function as a working restaurant where patrons can dine.

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Nguyen said the Winter Park store was not originally part of his plans for King Bao. The owner of his Mills 50 store is building a larger location across the street, which he plans to move into King Bao, but that move is still expected in about a year, according to Nguyen.

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“So we’re just going to take the money we’re going to invest in the new location and run that location (Winter Park) – so we’ve got three locations running now,” he said.

Once the new location on Mills Avenue is built and King Bao jumps across the road, Nguyen still plans to maintain a restaurant in the original space.

“I’ll be focusing on vegan food at this location,” Nguyen said, although he didn’t provide a timeline for when that would happen or a name for the new plant-based restaurant.

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As Nguyen seeks to launch a new concept, he still has other plans for King Bao’s future.

“We are currently taking the plunge,” Nguyen said. “I have maybe 10 or 12 people waiting for me to finish my lawyers’ papers so that everything is located. I have people from California, Colorado and Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami – it’s everywhere. They are all calling from everywhere.

Nguyen said he was not sure how many King Bao locations there were, but wanted to make sure the quality stays the same.

“I prefer to have people who are invested who are chefs themselves or people who know the trade,” he said. “I don’t want someone to come and ruin my product and my reputation because they want to do something cheaper or do something that is not the way I want it to be.”

Once the Winter Park location is operational, Nguyen said franchising will be the focus of his attention.

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The chef said he hopes the Winter Park store will be up and running by mid-January. He hopes to start hiring 10-15 employees for the store in early January.


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