When Tarn Tayanunth opened Dumpling Drop, she knew she wanted to do things differently.
“When you work in a restaurant, you always dream of having your own,” says Tayanunth. “You’re like ‘I can do this better.’ ”
With 20 years of restaurant experience, she wanted to treat her staff the way she wished she had been treated.
“Immediately, I was going to pay them above minimum wage, and we’re going to keep them well fed, and we’ll treat them like family.”
Dumpling Drop employees also receive full benefits, whether they are full or part-time.
“I think it’s really important,” says Tayanunth. “I ruined my body working in restaurants for years, and I don’t think that my body would be the way it is if I had the benefits to take care of it.”
Tayanunth has never had trouble finding great staff. In fact, when others are reducing their hours, the restaurant is expanding theirs. This fall, they will be open in the evenings serving Thai food.
“This is something very exciting for me, to show another side of Thai food that people here don’t get to see,” says Tayanunth. “I want to serve the Thai food that I want to eat.”
Dumpling Drop began after Tayanunth’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Fine motor skills help slow symptoms, and making dumplings was an activity her mother could still remember how to do. When their freezer began overflowing with dumplings, Tayanunth started selling them on Instagram and delivering them. Eventually, there was too much demand for the two of them and their kitchen to handle.
Last November, Tayanunth opened her Pandora Street location, and now they make about 20,000 dumplings a week. Her mom still helps roll them.
Tayanunth acknowledges that COVID has been hard on a lot of people, “but it also gave a lot of the new blood opportunities that we would never have had.”
The opportunities do seem to keep coming for Tayanunth. Dumpling Drop is expanding into the kitchen at the new Driftwood Brewery in Esquimalt.
“I’m very excited to be able to serve another community out there,” says Tayanunth. She sees the partnership as a win-win. “People will drink more if there’s food going on. There’s only so much Fat Tug you can have before you need dumplings.”