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David Diana
Jul 07, 2010

Looking for Opportunity? Follow the Korean Tacos.

It’s not easy to open yourself up to possibility. And when you make the effort it can be filled with risk and setbacks. When I’m feeling stuck I remind myself that my world is, in many ways, a psychological construct of the mind. And the story I see and tell myself is founded on a network of assumptions. No matter how objective I try to be the world still extends well beyond the borders that confine me to my every day reality. Every dilemma I find myself facing only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view.

A Lesson in Taco Making

“Korean BBQ Tacos? Are you crazy? And a food truck? Why would a well-respected Chef ruin his reputation by choosing an odd path such as this?”

Where some see dead ends, others see only opportunity.

Such is the fate of Chef Roy Choi. When Chef Choi began talking about his vision for a mobile restaurant that serves Korean Tacos he received a series of warnings and ominous predications as to the fate of his career. But Chef Choi was looking for something extraordinary and he knew that meant he needed to look in the unlikeliest of places.

Today, Chef Choi’s vision has become a reality with the creation of KOGI – America’s first viral restaurant and an unlikely blend of Korean BBQ and Mexican tacos.

I find this story remarkable in so many ways. I admire Chef Choi’s courage to ponder the seemingly unthinkable, his quest to break away from tradition, and I am fascinated with the way he utilizes new marketing principles to tap into a community that is looking to be led.

Restaurants fall by the wayside at a rapid clip. There are just so many to choose from that many get lost in a sea of choices. We as consumers have become so numb to the status quo that we forget things could be better. That is, until someone comes along with an idea so intriguing it’s as if we’ve been jolted out of a deep sleep. KOGI breaks the mold with its brave juxtaposition of ingredients and its willingness to connect with the community (both literally and figuratively).

Rather than follow the traditional model for restaurant success, Choi decided to measure himself against a whole new standard. He thought differently. And where others saw nothing, he saw opportunity and stuck with his vision.

The real secret behind his success is not the quality of his food. What makes his story so unique is the way in which he successfully taps into the consciousness of his community (The City of Los Angeles) through the use of Social Networking. His use of Twitter has helped create what is now called – Kogi Culture – an ever expanding community of restaurant patrons looking for a connection. When someone stumbles upon Chef Choi’s Taco Truck they are invited to follow him on Twitter, and these people in turn spread the word using their Twitter connections. Through Twitter, Chef Choi informs his community of his upcoming whereabouts and asks for suggestions as to where he should visit and when (talk about “listening to your customer”!). When he drives to a specific location he is bombarded with customers anxiously awaiting his arrival.

When asked about his vision, Choi is humble in his reply. But he is also quick to point out that he does not compare himself to traditional restaurants or to other mobile restaurants. He tries to understand the wants and desires of the people he serves and looks to offer something truly unique and remarkable. What he stumbled upon was a community thirsting for connection and for something new.

When I first read this story I felt myself becoming more and more excited about the possibilities within my own profession.

Chef Choi’s questions and challenges could just as easily be yours and mine.

- Who or what are you comparing yourself to?

- How do you approach a problem and identify opportunities?

Here’s how I used to approach the challenges I was faced with as I looked to grow my career. With limited vision and patience I spiraled downward into a vicious cycle of anxiety, anger and limited options. A Mobile Korean Taco Restaurant that uses Twitter as its main marketing tool would not have been at the forefront of my mind!

Today, I am humbly trying to adopt a problem-solving model where I open myself up to the myriad of possibilities. Instead of reacting or playing the victim, I attempt to be as objective as possible, knowing there are always new paths to forge.

Which begs the question:

From which framework are you speaking?

David P. Diana is a counselor, author, and a director for a behavioral healthcare organization. He writes a weekly blog on sales and marketing for counselors (

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