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Inspiring Conversations with David Zhao of Chubby Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Zhao.

David Zhao

Hi David, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?

Certainly. I was born in Shanghai, China, and during my school years, I was an average B- student. Despite not having a strong command of English, I made the bold decision to immigrate to America in pursuit of better opportunities. Interestingly, the challenges I faced while learning English turned out to be a source of strength for me.

I became bilingual and gained a deep understanding of two different cultures. Alongside my best friend, I ventured into the world of entrepreneurship by starting our first advertising agency. Our focus was on assisting Asian business owners in establishing a strong online presence, including creating websites and leveraging platforms like Yelp.

Over time, our agency grew, and we now have a team of over 50 employees, serving more than 200 Asian brands. It was during this journey that I met my current partner, who proposed the idea of entering the hot-pot restaurant business. Without hesitation, I wired $40,000 to a stranger the very next day, driven by our vision to challenge the stereotype of cheap Chinese takeout and introduce the concept of an “Elevated Asian dining experience.”

However, our path was far from easy. We encountered numerous challenges, including a lack of belief from landlords who found our concept unfamiliar. We also underestimated upfront costs and faced capital struggles. Despite the odds, an unexpected opportunity arose when the Venetian Resort reached out to us because they appreciated our food. This led to a remarkable $10 million project to establish our restaurant in the Venetian.

Just when things were looking promising, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, posing a significant threat to our business. Desperate for capital, my partner and I made a bold move by selling our homes and cars to fully invest in our project. We had unwavering belief in our vision, even when many doubted its feasibility in the midst of challenging macro-conditions and dining restrictions.

Today, we have successfully expanded to 11 locations across the United States, with ambitious plans to reach 100 by 2025. Our business is currently valued at $100 million, and we’ve also innovated by providing utility to “NFTs” as digital memberships for our loyal customers, offering them free food-for-life perks with every visit.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Absolutely. Our journey was anything but smooth. We started by working for less than minimum wage, pouring every bit of profit we could muster into our projects. At times, we had so little money that we resorted to sleeping at construction sites due to the inability to afford hotels. The lack of belief from landlords meant we often had to overpay for property, putting additional financial strain on us. The COVID-19 pandemic hit our business hard, but through determination and perseverance, we managed to weather the storm and emerge stronger.

As you know, we’re big fans of Chubby Group. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Formerly known as Chubby Cattle International, Chubby Group stands as a premier US-based F&B holding company. Celebrated for its dining concepts such as X Pot, Chubby Cattle, Niku X, and Mikiya, the group operates 12 multi-concept restaurants. Alongside its dining establishments, Chubby Group has launched distinct consumer product lines, featuring standouts like Wagyu Rice Bowls and Wagyu Soup Dumplings. In their quest to elevate the dining scene, Chubby Group also specializes in the distribution of unmatched Wagyu and Caviar. The “Chubby Club” loyalty program accentuates their customer-first philosophy, offering members unparalleled benefits across all entities. With an ambitious trajectory, Chubby Group aims to inaugurate 1,000 locations over the next five years, dedicated to enriching the experiences of Chubby Club aficionados, all while harnessing the power of its integrated supply chain strategy.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
In boxing (my favorite hobby), there is a term called “iron chin”. It’s having the patience and determination to get back up even when being punched in the face. It’s the characteristic of truly believing in what you can do despite all external challenges. Because when life hits you hard, you have to get back up. You need the iron chin to be able to tough it through and more importantly, learn from the punches you receive.


  • Mid-range Chubby Cattle can go from $40-$80
  • High-end Michelin Guide $150+

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