A spread of food from Gen Korean BBQ.
Gen Korean BBQ

The 32-unit chain allows customers to cook food themselves at the table. 

32-Unit Gen Korean BBQ Files to Go Public

The casual-dining concept believes it has room for more than 250 stores in the U.S. 

Gen Korean BBQ, a 32-unit concept without chefs in the kitchen, filed to raise up to $25 million in an IPO. 

The brand was founded 12 years ago in Tustin, California, by Korean immigrants Jae Chang and David Kim. Since then, the chain has expanded to Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Texas, and New York. The restaurant serves traditional Korean food as well as Korean-American fusion, combined with modern decorations and Korean pop music. 

Gen Korean BBQ uses a self-service model in which items are displayed family-style and guests use an embedded grill at the center of the table to cook their own food. Customers can order unlimited quantities for a fixed price, ranging from $17.95 to $20.99 for lunch and $25.95 to $29.95 for dinner as of March 31. 

Stores operate with limited personnel in the back of house. Products come ready-to-serve from suppliers who are disallowed from selling Korean barbecue products to other distributors. Thus far the brand hasn't experienced any supply chain disruptions, but if that were to occur, the company believes its longstanding partnerships would help it meet any increases in demand. It's also confident that the network is strong enough to support growth. 

"This approach ensures consistent food quality across all of our restaurants and provides for more efficient operations than traditional restaurants, which in turn allows us to cater to high traffic levels," the company states in its filing. 

Gen Korean BBQ earned $163.7 million in 2022 revenue, up from $140.6 million in 2021 and $62.7 million in 2020. In the first quarter of this year, the concept earned $43.9 million in revenue, up from $38.3 million last year. In 2022, the company achieved a net income margin of 6.3 percent, a restaurant-level adjusted EBITDA margin of 20.5 percent, and an adjusted EBITDA margin of 13.1 percent. In Q1, it posted a net income margin of 9.4 percent, a restaurant-level adjusted EBITDA margin of 19.2 percent, and an adjusted EBITDA margin of 11.9 percent.

In the 12 months ending March 31, Gen Korean BBQ had a $6 million AUV.

After opening no stores in 2020 and 2021, three came on board last year in Texas, Las Vegas, and New York. Six or seven are expected in 2023 and around eight to 10 are projected annually going forward. New markets on the horizon include Oregon, Georgia, Virginia, Utah, and Washington, D.C. Gen Korean BBQ believes it has room for more than 250 restaurants in the U.S. 

Both founders have years of experience in the restaurant industry. Chang has been part of several Asian brands, like Shabuya, Sumo, Octopus, H2O Sushi, and California Gogi. Kim is known for his multi-unit franchisee career, including Denny’s, Carl’s Jr., Golden Corral, and Pick-Up Stix. Before Gen Korean BBQ, he led an investor group that bought Baja Fresh from Wendy's and La Salsa from CKE Restaurants.