Renaissance congratulates client Zaab Zaab for being recognized as a NY Times Top 10 New Restaurant in 2022. Our team is so proud of how far the owners of Zaab Zaab, Bryan Chunton and Pei Wei, have come since we first helped them with a loan in 2019 when they partnered to open the business. The idea for Zaab Zaab was formed following a fire that burned down Mr. Chunton’s restaurant earlier that year.
Eat Gai Inc. and #1 Pho Inc. (both DBA Zaab Zaab) comprise two restaurants located in Elmhurst, Queens, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, respectively, specializing in cuisine originating from the Isan region of northeast Thailand. Established in 2018, the business has two co-owners, each owning a 50% share: Ms. Pei Shan Wei and Mr. Chaitawat (Bryan) Chunton. Mr. Chunton partnered with Ms. Wei on this venture after a fire burned down his previous restaurant.
Ms. Wei and Mr. Chunton initially worked with REDC in early 2019, when they sought financing as part of an expansion plan. REDC ultimately approved the business for a $75,000 loan, which closed in April of that year and helped cover working capital costs while Ms. Wei and Mr. Chunton invested in expansion. Of course, less than a year later the COVID-19 pandemic rocked small businesses across New York City, and Ms. Wei and Mr. Chunton were not spared: their original lower Manhattan location closed down during this time. However, they used both their culinary expertise and management savvy to find a way to thrive even under these circumstances: in June 2020, they secured a contract from the New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS) to provide meals for hungry NYC residents, a contract that was renewed in early 2021 and led to Ms. Wei and Mr. Chunton helping provide over 5,000 meals daily to city residents in need.
This contract left the business on solid enough footing that in 2022, Ms. Wei and Mr. Chunton returned to REDC to seek financing again. By this time, the pair had once again demonstrated their ability to adapt by pivoting from their Queens restaurant’s original focus by hiring the Thai chef Aniwat Khotsopa and rebranding as Zaab Zaab (Eat Gai was the restaurant’s original name). The change proved beneficial almost immediately, with a wave of favorable press coverage of the restaurant, notably including a positive initial review in the New York Times, and later being named one of the Times’ best new NYC restaurants of 2022. REDC helped the owners take advantage of this success by providing two more loans for $200,000 in total financing (one each to the Brooklyn and Queens location). These loans will provide working capital and help Ms. Wei and Mr. Chunton cover inventory costs as they continue to expand and tweak their business model – which included also re-branding their Brooklyn location as a Zaab Zaab restaurant with a strong focus on Isan seafood.
Ms. Wei and Mr. Chunton built an outstanding relationship with REDC in a short time after receiving their first loan, and REDC is proud to play a role in their businesses’ impressive success. Time and again their restaurants have faced serious challenges, only to emerge even stronger each time. We are confident they will continue to creatively surmount any obstacles they face, and are excited to provide whatever assistance we can as we continue our partnership.