This is Steven Zhik, the operational manager at Eight Turn Crepe. The concept for this Japanese creperie was brought to New York from Japan by Hiro Nishida in 2012. Hiro was born in Japan and has 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry through his work in both Japan and New York. Although he currently lives in New York, through his travels back and forth to Japan, he noticed that street crepes were becoming more and more popular and that nothing like it existed in his food community in New York. Served in a cone, the crepe is eaten on the go, which Hiro thought made it perfect for the hustle and bustle that New York City is known for. So he decided to introduce it to the New York market and opened the first Eight Turn Crepe location in Soho with his business partner, Tanya Mirvis. The fast casual restaurant was the first Japanese creperie to open in NYC and presented a new meal concept to the NYC food scene. Steven joined the team in 2016 after being connected with Tanya through a mutual friend. A huge fan of the product, Steven was a regular customer at Eight Turn Crepe before meeting Tanya. After speaking with her about the business, he knew right away that he had to be part of their team. His focus now is understanding their customer on a deeper level (dietary preferences, food trends and spending habits) and using that knowledge to grow their business in the U.S. and internationally.
Steven was born in Ukraine and came to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. He graduated from Pace with a degree in finance and economics in 2001, just two months after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and due the economic and social climate at the time, it was very difficult to get a job. So he and a few friends decided to pause their job searches and travel the world. They traveled for about six months and during this time, Steven ended up meeting someone in Vietnam who was from Queens and who he shared some mutual connections with. He was running a tattoo business in the East Village and told Steven to reach out to him when got back to the U.S. if he was interested in helping him out with the business. When Steven got back to New York a few months later, he contacted him and began running their storefront. Two years later, they had opened up two other store locations and Steven had become a partner in the business. This launched Steven’s career in retail. He worked in the retail industry for 17 years, opening up clothing stores and gift shops until he decided that he wanted to invest in a new business and was introduced to Tanya at Eight Turn Crepe. He thought the rice crepe was very unique and already knew that it was high quality from his time as a customer there. Although he had no experience in the food industry, he felt compelled to join the business. So he left the retail industry and became a partner in Eight Turn Crepe.
Once Steven joined the team, he took over all business operations. His day to day now centers around running Eight Turn Crepe’s store operations and catering business. Unfortunately, they were forced to close their flagship Soho location in 2016 just as he was coming on board due to increasing rent. But luckily around the same time they were invited to open a location at the DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn, after being handpicked by management there to be a part of it’s innovative dining experience. DeKalb Market is where they currently operate from and so far they’ve been very successful there. There’s a lot of foot traffic during the week throughout the lunch hour because they’re surrounded by a lot of corporate offices and even more so on the weekends with the Market’s daily live programming. Although the industry is much more labor intensive than Steven is used to, he says he’s never regretted his decision to join the business. And after spending two and half years learning the business and the food industry itself, he’s much more comfortable coordinating the staff (which can vary anywhere from nine to fifteen people at a time), and their schedules and the dealing with the inevitable turnover that comes with most food businesses. Like all industries, there are pros and cons but for Steven it has always been more rewarding than challenging.
Steven is usually at the store 3-5 days a week, which has allowed him to get to know their customer much better than he anticipated. He recognized that consumers are becoming much more health conscious (asking if their crepe batter contains eggs, milk or gluten), which led to their menu expansion to include vegan crepes and an overhaul of their store to make it more vegan-friendly: dedicating a crepe maker to make only vegan crepes, specifying certain utensils to be used and creating a new fridge and counter area where only vegan ingredients will be stored. Although they are still in the process of rolling out their vegan crepes and finalizing the logistics of the menu change, Steven’s interactions with customers in DeKalb Market have allowed him to zero in on areas of the business that need to be developed and put his efforts into developing them. However, he recognizes that the traditional recipe that they started with is what attracts most of their customers, so they’ll always offer the rice crepes that they’re famous for. Steven sees their menu development as a way to keep up with changing food trends and expand the business as well as to continue to reach their varied clientele. Similar to the business itself, they don’t plan on changing their recipe, just adding to it.
Steven works very hard to make sure that their customer service is top notch, so the most rewarding part of the business for him is reading reviews about how friendly the staff was or hearing from a customer how much they loved their crepe. He’s put a lot of energy into building a team that cares about the business and that care shows in their satisfied customers and the positive energy that surrounds the location itself. He’s hoping to use their DeKalb Market location as a model for future locations as he concentrates on franchising the business in places like Texas and the Middle East. But for now he plans to continue to work on getting their store operations and catering business down to a science, while continuing to listen to the needs of their customers and providing a solution that fits with their brand.
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