David Zhao of Chubby Cattle on Sacrificing Everything To Succeed

Interview with David Zhao about getting on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List 2022, what goes into creating a successful business, and why everyone should create social media content.

learn more about Shawn P. Walchef

By Shawn P. Walchef

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Restaurants are More than Food - Restaurant owners can attest to the difficulty of operating a successful restaurant. Starting at a young age has afforded David Zhao the opportunity to learn the nuances of what actually makes a restaurant work.

Aligned Visions in Partnership - The pandemic in 2020 brought about some dark days in business for David Zhao and his partner Haibin Yang. However, being aligned in their vision was a key factor in them taking unconventional measures to stay afloat and progress the business.

Everyone Should Create Content - David Zhao is not an social media influencer in the sense that many think when they hear the word. Meaning, he doesn't get paid from brands to create content. However, he ensures that his brand and content is helpful by telling his personal story and the story of Chubby Cattle online regularly.


Entrepreneur David Zhao of NXT Group and NXTFactor has a portfolio that includes Niku X, its sister restaurants X-Pot, and an organization that battles Cyber Bullying.

Leaning into his entrepreneurial penchant from a very early age, David Zhao and his partner, Haibin Yang, were both named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Food & Drink list for 2022.

"The pair are elevating traditional Chinese hot pot with technologies including robotic servers and bussers, as well as high-end laser projectors to project custom media for every dish onto customers' tables," Forbes wrote about the David Zhao and Haibin Yang. "Chubby Cattle has scaled to five locations across the US, raised $28 million, and is on track to see $20 million in revenue this year."

Zhao's endeavors have taken off in recent years, but it didn't begin that way.

After opening the first Chubby Cattle restaurant in Las Vegas 2013, just a few years removed from high school, he and Yang endured three years of no salary prior to creating a profitable business.

"Ninety percent of restaurants fail within the first few years. And it's because people think when you create a restaurant, it's all about creating good food, right? You have good food and you like the taste and that's it," explains David Zhao to podcast host Shawn P. Walchef of CaliBBQ Media.

"You have to be an expert in all of these aspects in order to have an edge in the restaurant space, to be profitable and to be scalable."

No lessons learned from experience would prepare Zhao, or any business owner, for the ramifications of the 2020 pandemic. During the public health related shut downs, Zhao had to halt expansion plans as the entire city of Las Vegas was placed on restrictions.

However, the perseverance that got them through the first three years of business helped align their vision to the point that the businessmen both agreed to sell their houses and cars to fund the delayed projects.

"We're ready to go all in for the projects any given time."

"I think, one thing that's key is also to our success is that a partner I have the same vision, like we're willing to sell everything right now if it's a new project", says David Zhao. "If the company needs it and we need it, we would sell whatever we have to make sure that we continue through."

That Mamba Mentality and unwillingness to cave is what gave David Zhao the momentum to continue building his business from a teenage freelancer writing reviews for Asian restaurants, to an entrepreneur, activist, and investor with a growing $100 Million Dollar Restaurant Brand. The future is bright for Zhao.


NOMINATE A RESTAURANT INFLUENCER — Do you know someone who is killing it on social media? Let us know by emailing influencers@calibbq.media or sending the @calibbqmedia team a DM on social media.


Restaurant Influencers is brought to you by Toast, the powerful restaurant point of sale and management system that helps restaurants improve operations, increase sales and create a better guest experience.

Toast — Powering Successful Restaurants. Learn more about Toast.

Restaurant Influencers is also supported by DAVO. Never worry about sales tax again. Try DAVO and get your first month free. And AtmosphereTV - TV to Enhance Your Business. Try AtmosphereTV.

Shawn P. Walchef

Shawn P. Walchef is the founder of Cali BBQ Media, podcast host, business coach, and proud dad. Since opening Cali BBQ in 2008, he has grown his San Diego restaurant and media company into a global brand using digital tools and smartphone storytelling. 

As a restaurateur who opened during the Great Recession, Shawn learned to use the power of the Internet to stay in business. During the Pandemic, Cali BBQ developed a scalable growth plan that is three times more profitable than the traditional full-service restaurant model.
Email shawn@calibbq.media to get in touch.

Related Topics

More from Restaurant Influencers

Rob Dyrdek on Designing a Desirable Life

CookUnity CEO Mateo Marietti on Connecting Chef to Consumer

David "Rev" Ciancio on How To Master Restaurant Marketing

Ryan Peters of Peters Pasta on Making Content Creation into a Business

Editor's Pick

Have More Responsibilities at Work, But No Pay Bump? Use This Script to Get the Raise You Deserve.
Black and Asian Founders Face Opposition at All Levels — Here's Why That Has to Change

Invest in Yourself: 10 Things Every Working Woman Should Do This Year

When striving for success, it is easy to forget about your mental and physical health. But without health, you cannot fully succeed. Follow these ten lifestyle strategies for success in your personal and professional life.

Growing a Business

The Best Way to Run a Business Meeting

All too often, meetings run longer than they should and fail to keep attendees engaged. Here's how to run a meeting the right way.


Working Remote? These Are the Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

As more and more businesses go remote, these are ways to be more effective and efficient on conference calls.

Thought Leaders

5 Small Daily Habits Self-Made Millionaires Use to Grow Their Wealth

We've all seen what self-made millionaires look like on TV, but it's a lot more subtle than that. Brian Tracy researched what small daily habits these successful entrepreneurs adopted on their journey from rags to riches.