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Zov Karamardian talks about expansion

By Tiffany Montgomery
November 08, 2007 5:30 AM

Zov Karamardian, one of Orange County's celebrity chefs, was happy operating one location, Zov's Bistro & Cafe, for 20 years.


Then the expansion tear: she's opened two more in a year. The newest, at Orchard Hills Village Center in Irvine, opened this week. She talked with me at her Tustin restaurant Wednesday about the expansion strategy.


Why she and her family opened more restaurants

They've had many opportunities over the years but didn't think they could duplicate what they had in Tustin. But they did some research, and discovered people are moving toward more casual dining where customers can get in and out quickly. She noticed at her Tustin location, where she has both fine dining and a cafe with soups, salads and sandwiches, the cafe is more popular.


The family signed on to open a cafe at Orchard Hills, then got the call about the Newport Coast site.They decided to do both. Both are 3,000 square feet and much smaller than the 13,000 square-foot-location in Tustin.


Newport Coast is "doing really well" and is meeting financial projections. "It's not in the red now," she said.


Any impact from slowing economy?

"We haven't seen that yet," she said. "Maybe a little on the fine dining side, where we've seen a small dip. But that's because fine dining takes three hours, people have to make reservations. Nobody has time."


Managing expansion

Some things got lost in translation. The homemade rolls in Tustin didn't do so well after being transported to the other restaurants. Making them at the other restaurants didn't work either. Now, she orders rolls from La Brea bakery from for Irvine and Newport Coast.


"You learn," she said.


Letting go

Karamardian has learned how to let go of responsibility and delegate.


She surrounds herself with good people, appreciates them and pays them well.


"You can say, ‘Nobody can do it just like you. But you know what? There's some damn good people out there."


Managers start in Tustin then filter out to other locations.


More planned?

"Right now we need to stop and absorb," she said. "We can't work like robots, that's not good. But I have very, very ambitious children."


Other projects:

Karamardian is working on a second cookbook and talking to the Irvine Unified School District about teaching children about healthy food, eating and cooking.


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