3 Strategies This Vietnamese Noodle Shop Has Used to Thrive in Minnesota MT Noodles began almost a decade ago with the mission of creating authentic Vietnamese cuisine and educating curious customers.

By Emily Washcovick

Key Takeaways

  • MT Noodles's Justin Bui says that the team's collaborative approach, engagement with customers, and commitment to core values are the keys to their success and positive reviews.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Courtesy of MT Noodles

In Twin Cities, Minnesota, Justin Bui and his family serve up authentic Vietnamese cuisine at MT Noodles. A favorite amongst locals, this noodle shop is known for high-quality ingredients, incredible customer service, and a core mission of integrating heritage and family into everything it does.

MT Noodles all started with recipes created by Justin's mom. "My mom's the backbone of it all. It's her recipes. She's been in the restaurant industry for over 20 plus years. It's her life, and it was just another way to express herself — through food. For us, it's being able to share Vietnamese cuisine with the community," he says. "We focus on really bringing those authentic dishes from her homeland to your table so that anyone can try it."

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Justin and his team prioritize using high-quality ingredients and harbor a genuine desire to share Vietnamese culture with customers. Staff routinely talk with guests to make sure they find exactly the right dish, especially if they've never had Vietnamese food before.

"To see someone who's never seen it before be willing to try, it's really exciting. You get to try something that is truly authentic and something you might not be able to get anywhere else," Justin says. "We want to help you navigate how to eat it. We try to tell all of our servers, 'Answer questions, educate customers,' because nowadays we get a lot of newer customers who maybe don't have a background in Vietnamese culture. And for us, as Vietnamese staff, how do we educate others to understand what this cuisine is about? No judgments at all. We're here to just help you navigate through it."

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For Yelp reviewers like Robby W., Justin and his team's willingness to help him learn about the cuisine and the MT Noodles family was something that really stood out and made his experience memorable.

"I think it's really important to go to small businesses that focus on cuisines that aren't really emphasized a lot in American culture. Pho is really popular and bahn mi's are really popular. But I think there's quite a few people who probably can't name another Vietnamese dish… There's a whole lot of flavor out there that we miss with the traditional American palette. But it's so different when it's family-run, and this lady comes out there and tells me how much this dish meant to her family and her life growing up, and really opened my eyes to what her childhood was like. That's something you don't get from anything but a family-owned restaurant," Robby said.

Yet success at MT Noodles extends beyond the team's willingness to share their cuisine and heritage with customers. They're also incredibly united in all of their wins as well as their mistakes, something that has proven to be a key motivator as they expand their business and continue to grow.

"We're really out there on our feet a lot, constantly moving. Mistakes are going to happen. It's really about always making sure we think of a solution. We'll talk to the customer, but let's see what we can do better then," Just said. " Customers have different preferences, and you got to make sure you don't take it too personally. We've been really blessed with having a great staff that's able to communicate with all of our customers and really understand our priorities. I think as a business owner, you really want to immediately set the boundaries and the priorities for both sides, front and back of the house."

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The team's collaborative dynamic and willingness to share the meaning behind their dishes is ultimately what keeps customers coming back.

To bring customers into the family, the team continues to engage with customers even after their visits by responding to Yelp reviews. Robby's engagement with the team after his meal made the experience even more special.

"They replied directly to my Yelp post, which is really nice, and they wished me a happy belated birthday, which was just so sweet. They really made me feel good for going there, and it really helped knowing that they appreciated my review and that it meant something to them. It just feels nice as a reviewer when you know that restaurants look through the feedback and they actively go through it," Robby said.

In addition to its high-quality ingredients and authentic menu items, MT Noodles maintains its reputation as a local favorite by:

  • Putting core values at the forefront of service. As a small business owner, keeping your core values in mind is noticeable to customers and makes them feel like they're getting a truly authentic experience.
  • Being honest with customers and building trust. Invite customers in and give them a behind-the-scenes look at your process to make their experience memorable, rather than just trying to sell the product.
  • Sharing wins and challenges among staff. Through good times and bad, your team will feel more united in the goal of bringing top-notch service to customers when they share their triumphs and failures. This awareness and care will help make your business stronger and help staff feel recognized for their efforts.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Justin and Robby and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora, and Soundcloud.

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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