They may have a second location in the Galleria area and a third in the works for the East End, but for Roostar Vietnamese Grill owners Ronnie and Linda Nguyen, Spring Branch will always be home.
So, it made sense that Roostar’s newest venture, a commissary kitchen, would be located in the Spring Branch District next to the original Roostar Vietnamese Grill location on Gessner near Long Point Road.
“This is where my grandparents came and this is where they raised my family. This is our roots,” Ronnie Nguyen said. “This community really gave us the opportunity to build what we do. This will always be our anchor.”
The new “Roostar Factory,” expected to open in December, will also be the anchor, to use Nguyen’s word, for the restaurants’ take-out and delivery business.
This year the Nguyens put the project on an online investment platform, NextSeed, and maxed out at $150,000 from 130 investors to help fund Roostar Factory.
Nguyen said that in true Roostar fashion, the investors are mostly individuals from Houston, with some from Spring Branch.
“They get to be part of our growth,” he said.
Roostar Factory will provide the infrastructure to efficiently process, package, and fulfill orders that come through the restaurants’ newly refreshed Roostar mobile app, as well as third party services (Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Postmates).
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made take-out and delivery options an even more important part of of most restaurants’ business, Nguyen said the plans for Roostar Factory are not new.
“All this was already brewing,” he said, as was the opening of a third location in the East End.
“We were already committed prior to the pandemic,” Nguyen said. And, while the situation may be less than ideal for a restaurant to be expanding during these times, he said Roostar is hoping to be a part of the recovery.
“We want to represent and be part of the economy that is coming back,” Nguyen said.
For Spring Branch Roostar customers, the Factory creates an even safer food experience, as it is creating more spaces for guests to come in and grab their orders.
For now, the restaurant has outdoor seating and curbside/delivery options, which can still become crowded, especially as businesses start opening back up and more people come for lunch, Nguyen said.
With the new space next door, all traffic from electronic orders from individuals or from delivery platforms will go to the Factory storefront, while guests arriving to order in person or dine in will come to the original space.
“Right now safety is really important,” Nguyen said. “I think it’s a smart thing to be able to minimize risks.”
Also new at Roostar is a mural on the side of the building painted by Heights-based artist Caroline Truong. It’s striking and bold chrysanthemum is intended to balance out the mostly concrete environment along Gessner with a little bit of nature, Nguyen said.
Also, in Vietnamese culture, the chrysanthemum represents longevity, which is appropriate considering the commitment the Nguyens have to doing business in the Spring Branch District. The mural includes the words of Langston Hughes:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Speaking of longevity and roots (and dreams), Linda Nguyen learned how to make many of the dishes served at the restaurant from her mother, who learned them from her grandmother, who owned a sandwich shop in Vietnam.
Opened in 2013 in Spring Branch, originally as Vietnam Poblano, Roostar has seen rapid success serving quick, tasty bites for lunch and dinner. Over the years, they have won multiple awards and have been featured on “Best Of” lists by Houston Press, Yelp, and more for their Vietnamese version of “fast food.”
Roostar Factory had been a dream of the owners for almost five years, Ronnie Nguyen said. “It will allow us to simplify operations for our staff, provide a more consistent experience for our customers, and give us the infrastructure needed to continue to grow the Roostar brand, with the ultimate goal of feeding and nourishing as many people as we can.”
The Factory will be tailored specifically to streamline the delivery hand-off process, with designated areas for packing and pick up. It will also to store homemade sauces and other food items that can be made or purchased in bulk, saving time and expense.
Fresh, high-quality, delicious food delivered quickly is a hallmark of their business and one the Nguyens aim to improve on even further with the dedicated Factory space.
Roostar Vietnamese Grill and Roostar Factory
1411 Gessner Dr. Suite I
Houston, TX 77080
— by Dorothy Puch Lillig