S. Korean-Cana­dian busi­nesses see Olympic boost

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - TARA DE­SCHAMPS TORONTO

Sales are up for both restau­rants and re­tail stores as cus­tomers look to ex­pe­ri­ence the cul­ture of the Games’ host coun­try

The Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea have Cana­dian ath­letes scoop­ing up medals far from home, but the Games have also been a win for Korean busi­nesses in Canada.

In the weeks be­fore and since the Olympics be­gan, own­ers of Korean stores and restau­rants across the coun­try said they have seen in­creased traf­fic and sales from cus­tomers in­ter­ested in the cul­ture of 2018 Olympic host coun­try.

Foodora, a food de­liv­ery ser­vice op­er­at­ing in most Cana­dian prov­inces, said Korean food or­ders were up 16 per cent two weeks ago and in­creased by an­other 13 per cent last week, when the open­ing cer­e­monies kicked off the Games.

So many peo­ple have been flock­ing to Home of Hot Taste’s two Greater Toronto Area restau­rants for Korean chicken, an Asian del­i­cacy that is of­ten crispier than the av­er­age fried chicken, that man­ager An­gela Yoo has had to help out in the kitchen and ask chefs to work longer hours.

“Sud­denly, every­one wants Korean food and there is a high de­mand for our chicken be­cause a lot of Kore­ans eat chicken and

beer to­gether.”

Ot­tawa-based Kochu, which serves sushi and Korean cui­sine, has also seen “an uptick in in­ter­est” in its of­fer­ings, ac­cord­ing to man­ager James Ma­cleod.

Its Pyeongchang Combo Box – which in­cludes bul­gogi, Japchae noo­dles, Kim­bap and shrimp tem­pura – has been a par­tic­u­lar hit.

“We do know there is a pos­i­tive con­nec­tion be­tween South Korea host­ing the Olympics and peo­ple sam­pling Korean food that they

wouldn’t have other­wise or com­ing back to it be­cause they haven’t had it in a while,” he said.

“One guy came in and said he was fa­mil­iar with Korean food, but his wife and daugh­ter weren’t, so he thought it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to bring them some Korean food while they watch the Games.”

At Hanji Gifts, a Toronto-based pa­per and sta­tion­ary com­pany whose three lo­ca­tions are stocked with 95-per-cent Korean-made items, owner Cather­ine Choi said

the Olympics de­mand caught her by sur­prise. “It didn’t oc­cur to me that it would im­pact in­ter­est un­til some­one came and cleared us out of a par­tic­u­lar Korean pop-up card,” she said.

The cus­tomer told Ms. Choi’s staff she was stock­ing up on the cards, priced at $5.95 apiece, and packs of stick­ers de­pict­ing Korean city scenes to gift to Olympians.

Shortly after, an­other cus­tomer came in to nab most of Hanji’s stock of roughly 30 Korean pa­per fans, which were hand-painted in the Olympics host coun­try and fea­ture flo­ral and bird de­signs. The cus­tomer planned to use the fans, which cost $37 apiece, as decor at an event, Ms. Choi said.

Ms. Choi has also re­ceived Face­book and e-mail in­quiries about Olympics prod­ucts.

“Maybe I should have thought of do­ing an Olympics pro­mo­tion, but we were just get­ting over Christ­mas and get­ting into Valen­tine’s Day, so I wasn’t think­ing about it,” she said.

Hodo Kwaja Bak­ery in Toronto’s Kore­atown landed a big Games or­der from Cadil­lac Fairview.

Suki Lee, whose fam­ily owns the bak­ery, said the mall op­er­a­tor or­dered more than 5,000 hodo kwaja, the bak­ery’s name­sake cake that looks like a wal­nut and is filled with sweet red beans or mashed pota­toes.

“When they said the amount, I thought, is this a prank call?” Ms. Lee said, laugh­ing. “An av­er­age per­son would usu­ally buy a 30piece box or if they want a snack, six or 12 pieces.”

Ms. Lee said it took the bak­ery two days to ful­fill the or­der, which was dis­persed to cus­tomers across the coun­try at Olympic view­ing par­ties at malls.

She’s hop­ing or­ders like it will con­tinue to drive cus­tomers to the bak­ery long after the Olympics are over.

“We are of­ten for­got­ten be­cause North York has a big Kore­atown, but this is great be­cause it’s more peo­ple com­ing to visit and ex­pe­ri­ence the cul­ture,” she said.

A Korean pop-up card is dis­played at Toronto’s Hanji Gifts on Tues­day. The store’s owner says a cus­tomer cleared the busi­ness out of a par­tic­u­lar card re­cently to send as gifts to Olympians.

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