By: Elisa Berry
Seven years ago, Pho Lee opened its doors, and Lee Pham had to learn how to run a restaurant from the ground up. “This was a completely new career, it was difficult to run the kitchen and establish human resources”. Pham expressed concerns revolving around customer’s interest in the cuisine. “It was especially difficult because I didn’t know if customers would like Vietnamese cuisine. We were the first ones and some people were scared to try our food”. However, the customers came and they have continued to come back to enjoy his family’s recipes. “I love hearing first time customers come in and say that they will be coming back. It makes us feel like we are doing the right thing.”
One thing that is obvious is just how much Pham cares about his staff. “My staff is like my friends. We work hard and play hard, but after work. I treat everyone with respect. It doesn’t matter if they are old or young or black or white. Everyone is equal.” Because he is located in a college town, naturally, a lot of his staff are students. Pham gushed about watching them grow up – “When I opened, we had a group of college kids. Now, they are engineers, doctors, and some even have kids. They visit me, and I love the friendships that we have.” He hopes that all of his student employees learn something from working with him. “Some people say that serving is an easy job, but the kind of things that you learn while doing it can aid you in future careers.”
With over half a decade of experience, Lee Pham has big plans for the future. He dreams of opening a second location in downtown Auburn that would allow him to interact with more students. “I love college towns because I am an alumnus myself. I love interacting with the younger generation, although I may be too old now, but I love it.”
Much like most of the population, his big plans had to be put on hold due to the pandemic. “When we shut down, lots of people were shopping at the big corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart because the local-owned businesses were closed. For us, and other small restaurants, we need the revenue in order to survive.” It is important that people support small businesses like Pho Lee to keep our local economy up and running. Besides, there are many benefits to eating locally. “Unlike chain restaurants, we cook everything fresh and its very healthy,” Pham stated. “My slogan is ‘eat healthy, live longer.’ I would definitely encourage people to support our local economy because the money goes back to the city.”
Believe it or not, Lee Pham credits most of his marketing successes to word of mouth. Up until the creation of Pho Lee’s website and their FetchMe page, they strictly relied on customer’s recommendations to acquire new customers “When I started this business, it grew organically. The people who genuinely love our products have helped us grow by word of mouth”. This is very telling of the quality of their food and the overall quality of their restaurant. “One of my favorite stories to tell is about my friend who had to move to Chattanooga for work. Awhile ago, one of his friends came to visit, and he asked to bring five chicken curries back to Tennessee to eat it for a whole week. It made me very happy to know that he loves it so much.”
Currently, Pho Lee is doing a “grab and go” lunch special which includes a sandwich, an egg roll, and a drink for $9.95. They are open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 2:30pm and 4:30pm to 9pm. Additionally, Pho Lee is ensuring to follow the proper guidelines to keep everyone safe during the current pandemic. Now, you can have Pho Lee’s Vietnamese food delivered through FetchMe. So, the next time you are looking to order food, use FetchMe to order Pho Lee. Order now and use code PHO3 for $3 off! Think Fast, Think Friendly, Think FetchMe!
Get all the information you need and more from our friends at Auburn-Opelika Tourism