HOUSTON, Texas -- Khanh Nguyen's family and friends told him getting into the restaurant business was the worst decision ever, but that didn't stop him. Now he heads the fast-growing chain Zalat Pizza.
Nguyen was born at the tail end of the Vietnam War. His father was a general in the South Vietnamese army and the governor of the Da Lat province. After the fall of Saigon, Nguyen's family fled to the U.S. and looked to start a new life.
After graduating from the University of Houston, Nguyen got a law degree, worked as a corporate security attorney, and then co-founded a tech company that made software for hospitals. After selling the startup, Khanh wanted a new challenge.
He opened DaLat in Dallas, specializing in pho, pad Thai, and other ramen dishes. When a pizza place near his restaurant failed, Nguyen decided to take over the lease.
"I had never made a pizza before that, but I'm pretty obsessive and meticulous when I take something on," said Nguyen. "Many will say it's the best pizza they've ever had."
One of the keys to Zalat's success is focusing more on pizza making and thinking differently about delivery. In 2016, Nguyen was frustrated about getting pizzas delivered while it's fresh. He then hit on the idea, call an Uber, which was new.
"Wed have a discussion about, 'hey we don't have a passenger for you, but would you mind taking this pizza? 3 out of 4 of them would take it. The fourth one would cuss us out," said Nguyen. After a few months, he reached out to Uber and came to an agreement to try out a delivery system that would become Uber Eats.
Another difference from many other businesses, Zalat offers all its employees full benefits, including stock options in the company.
Since opening its first location in 2015, Zalat has opened more than 20 locations across Dallas and Houston.