Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | April 2015 | By Robert Thomas

Start to Finish: Dan Kim

The founder of Red Mango talks about what keeps him going in the quick-service business.
Quick service executive Dan Kim helped pioneer modern day fro yo movement.
Dan Kim - Founder, Red Mango Red Mango

I always remember having an interest in the quick-serve industry, and branding in general, before starting Red Mango in 2006. It was definitely a risk, as I had no prior restaurant experience, but that was a constant source of motivation for me, personally. I wanted to be a founder of a brand and grow it organically by trying something new. When our first store officially opened in 2007, my motivation was running thin, and I was extremely overwhelmed. After the dust settled with the first couple of stores, I became more and more aware of the satisfaction I got from seeing customers enjoy the product and want to come back. The feedback we received as a brand validated my decision to be in this industry.

That sense of satisfaction continues for me on a daily basis. I think in any retail industry, your No. 1 goal is to cater to what consumers want. It’s a natural evolution on how we should proceed as businesses. That need and that demand from the consumer standpoint never stop and are always changing. If consumers didn’t change their preferences, I don’t think I would be as excited as I am when it comes to my career and what I’m doing in this industry. The whole idea of elevating a culinary experience to make food healthier, and then making consumers happy, is a great job to have.

Recently, I’ve focused on constantly staying connected with consumer preferences and trends. If you don’t know what your consumers are talking about, you’re going to miss out on the next big thing. With so many social media outlets, you can see what people are talking about in real time. They’re on Instagram taking pictures, or on Twitter posting their immediate reaction. It’s my responsibility to take a step back, look at all the responses, and weave it all together. Being able to hear that continuous story and having a pulse on what the customers are saying helps keep the brand relevant. The fact that we can engage so quickly by using channels where customers are most honest helps us connect and serve our client base better.

What was your first job?

Selling flowers on the street.

What is your favorite dish at Red Mango?

I’m a purist: our original yogurt with either some berries or some honey.

Besides Red Mango, what is your favorite type of food?

Sushi. Hands down.

What are some of your interests outside of Red Mango?

I’m a big fan of photography.

What’s the best piece of advice quick-serve owners should hear?

Be true to the customer and have that take preference over all other strategies.

As a consultant, what’s the best piece of advice you gave to industry executives?

Embrace fail-forwarding magnificently. Rather, swing for the fences; don’t get stuck holding the bat.


Dan Kim is truly an innovator and truly understands how to build a brand. Working with Dan for 7 years with Red Mango truly taught me how to listen to the consumer.

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