How I Got Here: Sonny Huang

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with ROBATA Soho founder Sonny Huang

Related tags: Soho, Restaurant, Japanese cuisine, London

Sonny Huang is the founder of contemporary Japanese restaurant ROBATA in Soho.

Why restaurants?
I would say I was naturally born into the restaurant trade, having started working as a kitchen porter since my early teens and transitioning to all other areas such as chef, waiter and bartender. I knew from an early age that this was the industry that I wanted to be in.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Working smarter is better than working harder. Be confident, be decisive, be quick, and always make sure you’ve done your research.

How often do you check your email?
More often than I should.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
I generally prefer independent restaurants, but I think at the moment Flat Iron is my favourite. The Flat Iron knives; simplistic menu; competitive pricing; and, of course, the delicious food - it's a winner in my eyes. 

What motivates you?​ 
Success! I think a lot of people view success as being linked to your career results. But I categorise success into three elements: career, personal, and family/friends. What motivates me is being on a career path that I have chosen and enjoy; setting and achieving personal results and goals; and having family and friends that will not only support, but to also challenge your decisions.

Favourite holiday destination?
Anywhere with good snow and a ski resort.

What keeps you up at night? 
Sleep is boring, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. But otherwise, ‘new ideas’ take away the majority of my sleep. Once an idea is in my head, it will keep me up for a good hour before I fall asleep.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business? 
I don’t think I can pinpoint this down to any one person. But I’ve definitely been fortunate enough to be surrounded by various influential people who have provided me with a great insight into the world of restaurants, business, finance and innovation.

What are you currently reading?
Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad.

Worst business decision?
Almost completing a deal on a restaurant site in 2018. Looking back at it now, I know that I over-estimated the site potential and it would not have met my expectations. I am thankful that the deal collapsed.

Best business decision? 
Let’s hope it will be the opening of the second, and many more ROBATA restaurants in the future.

What boxset are you currently watching?
It’s been a while, I don’t think I’ve watched anything since Game of Thrones.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business? 
Network and surround yourself with like-minded people; ask for help and ask questions when you don’t understand; and learn useful transferrable skills in your spare time.

What was your dream job growing up?
To work in the restaurant trade and to work for myself, so I think I’ve actually found the perfect job.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Over expansion of restaurants; big chains snapping up prime sites and inflating rents and premiums.

Bio

Born in Bristol in May 1992, Huang went on to study for a bachelor’s degree in Business Management at the University of Manchester in 2010. After graduating in 2014, he went on to set up his own business: Huang Holdings Ltd. He founded contemporary Japanese grill concept Robata under the group last year, which currently has a single site on Old Compton Street in Soho.

Related topics: People

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