LAKE MARY, Fla. – Viet-Nomz, the fast-casual Vietnamese restaurant run by three University of Central Florida alumni, opened a new location Friday, setting up shop in Lake Mary.
Viet-Nomz’s new location, the first in Seminole County for the small chain, sits at 4044 W. Lake Mary Blvd Suite 108.
To celebrate the grand opening, the restaurant is having a prize wheel set up Friday and Saturday for customers who stop by for a meal, according to co-owner Chris Chen. He added that on Sunday, the Lake Mary location will offer a BOGO deal offering a free kid’s bowl with the purchase of a regular entree bowl.
This new store is the third location for Viet-Nomz, which first opened in Winter Park, 7581 University Blvd., in 2016.
“My partner Phil (Nguyen) and I, we were college friends and we reconnected a year later. We had corporate jobs and we just really didn’t like it,” Chen said.
The pair both had an interest in opening their own business. Chen said he wanted to start a coffee shop and that Nguyen was looking to open a sit-down Vietnamese restaurant.
“We started chatting a little bit more and I was like, ‘Why don’t we use our concepts together where we kind of make it like a fast-casual Vietnamese restaurant,’” Chen said. “And at that time in 2016, there was nothing like that in Orlando. So I was like ‘Let’s let’s be the first to do it.’”
Chen and Nguyen ultimately brought on Mike Cho, the co-owner of Impress Ink, to join their business. The pair knew Cho from their days at UCF.
“We actually needed some additional capital and we really respected his business experience,” Chen said. “When we asked him to partner if he wanted to, and he said ‘Yes.’”
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The three partners then signed the lease for their Winter Park location in December 2015 and opened Viet-Nomz six months later.
In 2018, the Viet-Nomz saw its first big expansion, opening a second location in the Waterford Lakes area of Orlando, 11798 E. Colonial Drive.
The trio had planned to open a third location earlier. Chen said they actually had a lease signed in March 2020, just as the pandemic started to hit Florida.
“We were able to get out of that lease by the grace of the landlord,” he said. “So that obviously was a blessing.”
Chen is from Lake Mary, which, he said, is part of the reason he and his partners chose the Seminole County city.
“I went to Lake Mary High,” he said. “I’m a 2007 alumni. Lake Mary — it’s a nice, family-oriented town, humble town. And there is, in my opinion, a lack of fresh (restaurant) concepts. There’s a lot of chains... and coming from my hometown, I didn’t see a lot of Asian restaurants in that area.”
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Chen said that while Viet-Nomz uses traditional ingredients in its food, it offers a more modern and approachable take on Vietnamese cuisine.
“I think people that are not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine — I believe were a perfect introduction,” Chen said. A majority of our customers have never had Vietnamese food. So when they come to our restaurants, they feel very comfortable.”
Even as this third location holds its grand opening, Chen said he and his partners are already looking at other places they could expand into, though they do not have a timeline for when that could happen.
“We are looking in the areas of Lake Nona, West Orlando,” Chen said. “We are looking to expand, but we do want to do it at a good rate.”