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September 2, 2014 > A Bucket of Crab, and First-time Restaurant Advice

A Bucket of Crab, and First-time Restaurant Advice

By Kelly Kline, Economic Development Director

Cut the Crab. Seriously! With a fantastic name Ñ and an interior that will transport you straight to the docks of the bay Ñ FremontÕs first restaurant devoted to Cajun-inspired crustaceans opened on August 1 to rave Yelp reviews. We recently chatted with owner Leroy Le and his Ivy Commercial Realtors, Tim Tran and David Tran of the Ivy Group, about opening a first-time restaurant, and what it takes to be successful.

Q: Leroy, Cut the Crab (CTC) is your first restaurant, although it sure doesnÕt look like one! What was your background before deciding to open your own place?
A: My parents owned a Vietnamese/Thai fusion restaurant in Sacramento when I was growing up. They offered 40+ dishes for both lunch and dinner. Needless to say, they are retired now! I took on this project with my wife who had the inspiration for the ÒpierÓ influenced interior. Everything was custom-made from the lanterns to the wood booths. The concept was three years in the making and plays on the current popularity of fresh crab.

Q: Tell us more about Cut the Crab.
A: Well, the name certainly gets peopleÕs attention! This creativity extends to the menu where you can order the ÒHoly Crab BucketÓ that serves three people for a reasonable price. Our raw bar, which is the largest in the East Bay, serves different kinds of fresh oysters daily. We have a warm, friendly, Òhanging outÓ vibe, and are focused on consistent quality.

Q: Tim and David, weÕve heard that Fremont wasnÕt necessarily your first choice to site this restaurant. How did you end up with this location?
A: Our first focus was North San Jose. However, San Jose has more competition in this category. When this location opened up, we realized there is a significant gap for this niche in the East Bay. We considered a number of important factors: parking, rents, readiness of the space, and the landlordÕs willingness to take on a first-time business. This site met all the criteria. We also knew that the audience for crab is very serious and will come from a larger radius to get fresh fish.

Q: Retail real estate can be tough. How do you help your clients navigate their choices?
A: You canÕt circumvent the basics Ñ accessibility is key, and so are strong demographics. A check at Cut the Crab can run $100+, so the demographics need to match. Having the right equipment and amenities is also important Ñ not to mention code compliance! We provide a full cost analysis so that business owners can weigh and prioritize the trade-offs of different spaces. At the end of the day, relationships are key Ñ both to making the deal, and to putting together the team that will improve the space. Patience is also key. So is follow-up.

Q: Leroy, what advice do you have for other first-time restaurant owners?
A: My advice for those with a restaurant dream is to stay away ... really! This is a tough, 12-hour a day job. But, itÕs also lots of fun. I really enjoy seeing our customers enjoy the food.

Q: Any future plans?
A: We definitely see ourselves expanding in the Bay Area Ñ San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco, and perhaps the North Bay. In the immediate term, IÕm looking to import Òghost peppers,Ó the ultimate lip burner! CTC already serves five different levels of spicy ranging from non-spicy to ÒsmokinÕ hot.Ó Ghost peppers are literally off the charts. They attract customers like David who have been known to compete in food challenges like Òthe Walk of Flame.Ó

One thing is clear, if he keeps serving up tasty buckets of crab, the Walk of Fame will be just around the corner for Leroy Le.

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