Turning Dumplings Into Gold

Stern MBA Kenny Lao describes a typical long day working to streamline operations at his successful New York eatery

I'm the founder and owner of Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, a fast-casual restaurant that features Asian-inspired stuffed dough wrappers on West 23rd Street near Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Teaming up with Chef Anita Lo (Annisa), I helped create a menu that includes Peking duck and chicken and Thai basil dumplings with a variety of dipping sauces and served in noodle soup or with an entree salad. Other popular items include the green tea milkshake and chocolate soup dumplings.

After earning my MBA from Stern in 2004, I turned the business plan that I had written while still in school into a reality. I capitalized on my victory in the NYU Stern Business Plan Competition when raising money for the business, and I was also invited to be part of the Stern Incubator program, which fosters the growth of startups. My MBA, combined with my previous experience as a restaurant consultant for Myriad Restaurant Group (Tribeca Grill, Montrachet, Nobu, Nobu Next Door), naturally led me back into the hospitality industry -- but this time at a level that was scalable and autonomous.


 The restaurant has generated a lot of buzz in New York. Rickshaw has been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines, and an MTV camera crew has even been following me around for a documentary that will probably air later this year. My plan is to open other units, beginning with the Manhattan market.

Here's a typical day at the restaurant:

8:45 a.m. -- Out the door on my bike and cruising to the restaurant to open the "factory." The dumpling wrapping staff arrives at 9 a.m., even though we don't open to the public for lunch until 11:30 a.m.

9:00 a.m. -- Dumpling-making begins. I unlock the door to the restaurant just in time to walk through the day's inventory with Sous-Chef Josefat, who makes the dumpling fillings.

9:30 a.m. -- Make calls like one to my partner, Andy Stenzler, founder of CosÌ, to discuss the statement we are preparing for investors.

10:00 a.m. -- Kitchen crew arrives. I assist Maria, a new employee, who will be handling the salad and noodle soup station during our busy lunch period.

10:30 a.m. -- The MTV camera crew shows up to follow me around for the day. After someone mikes me, I fiddle with the dumpling steamer, which has been acting up.

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