Farmily business coming to Farmington
For most of the past two decades Tony Weng has helped his cousins run a successful restaurant. Now he and a few family members figure it's time to do the same for themselves.
For 18 years Weng worked at Peking Garden, a St. Paul restaurant owned by his cousins. He's been a waiter. He's been a manager. He's handled just about every part of the operation. So when a friend told Weng he was looking to sell Farmington's New Moon Buffet, he saw his chance. He knew the restaurant business. He knew the Farmington area didn't have a lot of options for Chinese food. And he believed he was ready to change that.
Along with his sister and his mother, Weng jumped at the opportunity.
"We saw this place that's close to home," Weng said. "If we could run a successful restaurant for family members, we thought could run a successful business on our own."
Weng and his family bought the restaurant in June. New Moon did its last day of business on Father's Day, and Weng has been hard at work developing Weng's Kitchen ever since.
There has been plenty of work to do. Weng believes it was the management, not the market, that forced New Moon out. He said the former owner would sometimes go on vacation and leave the restaurant in the hands of his parents, who spoke very little English. And Weng said he spent time early in the transition process cleaning sticky messes out of the booths.
Weng promises the new restaurant will be very different. He's just getting warmed up with about eight weeks of remodeling. He plans to redecorate inside the restaurant and install a small bar. There will be free wireless Internet access and a pair of 60- to 65-inch flat-panel television screens hanging on walls that will be redone in a warm brown stucco.
The menu will change, too. New Moon's large buffet will be out. A casual sit-down and take-out menu will be in. Weng appears prepared to bring over some of the Cantonese-style dishes that have been favorites over the years at Peking Garden. The menu is still a work in progress, but Weng said sesame chicken and "very authentic" lo meins have been popular at the other restaurant. The family's Peking duck has always gone fast.
"We always sell out of that," he said.
Weng's Kitchen will offer a smaller buffet at lunch as well as combo boxes.
In the meantime, Weng is hard at work making sure things come together the way he sees them. He's had to figure out permits, work with construction crews and set up contracts with food and beverage distributors. For all of his years in the restaurant business, he's never actually had to build a business from the ground up.
"It's a brand new experience for me," Weng said. "Lots of interesting stuff."
He hopes the result will be just as interesting for Farmington diners.