After a night out his senior year of college, Chick-N-Bap Founder and CEO Sung Kim and his friends were desperately craving chicken and rice from the Halal carts of New York City. Their college town, however, lacked a spot to adequately accommodate their desire.
Kim decided to go to Walmart and spend the last $200 in his bank account on groceries to make and sell platters of chicken and rice to his friends.
Kim was eventually able to host a pop-up on his campus to sell his food.
“It exceeded expectations by a mile,” he said. “I thought I would get around 50 sales, but ended up making over 500 sales. We got a contract in 2016.”
Seven years later, Chick-N-Bap opened its sixth location in Clutch & Go on the second floor of the University Center.
Originating at Binghamton University, the Korean barbeque restaurant inspired by New York City street food has received positive responses from students.
Emily Newman, ‘24, said the restaurant is a unique, high-quality addition to the University Center.
“I was surprised because I’ve never seen the combinations of food that they have before,” Newman said. “It was a cool variation of chicken, rice and unique sauces, and it definitely gives students a different option on Lehigh’s campus.”
Unlike the other vendors in the University Center, students have the option of purchasing one of Chick-N-Bap’s house-made chicken and rice bowls on any given day of the week.
“It’s good because it’s open on the weekends and it’s exciting to have a new option at Lehigh,” said Zach Weisenstien, ‘24.
Chick-N-Bap’s opening at Lehigh was the restaurant’s first expansion since the onset of COVID-19. Kim said the pandemic has presented a myriad of challenges to the business.
Kim said labor market shortages have made it difficult to find and hire employees willing to work, who would otherwise be reaping unemployment benefits. Supply chain shortages have also caused prices of food and supplies to skyrocket.
Kim said before COVID-19 a case of chicken cost $50. He said now he is paying around $100 a case.
Even with a host of obstacles, Kim said he and his team are working hard to provide high-quality housemade food to students on campus.
Kim said working at Lehigh has been a really great and rewarding experience.
“Our partnership with Auxiliary Services is the best working relationship I could have asked for,” Kim said. “We’ve been told that sales have quadrupled since last year at this time, so Lehigh is also very happy with our partnership from a financial perspective.”
As for student responses, Kim said he has heard nothing but good things.
“Everyone that comes to Chick-N-Bap is new to this style of food, so I’m always anxious if they will like it or not, but then I’ll see the same student three times a day, which is a very rewarding feeling,” Kim said.