By Erica Cawagas
Local Korean restaurant HanJan opens its third location amidst the pandemic.
Hanjan South first opened their doors on 99th St in 2017. A second location is off Whyte Ave, sometimes known as Round 2, and the newest HanJan is located near Oliver square.
Round 2, also owned by Sam Lee, still exists as a bar on the weekends but operates as HanJan off Whyte on weekdays.
Thanks to his father’s cautiousness, HanJan South was one of the first Edmonton restaurants to close dine-in seating back in March giving HanJan the time to adjust to the new normal before other restaurants.
“When COVID-19 first hit we were just trying to figure out how we can keep people employed and keep making the sales so we can keep operating. So we tried deliveries for the first time. We switched a lot of our servers into delivery drivers,” said Lee.
HanJan prides themselves in always serving fresh food, so large quantities of food are often prepared to be cooked that very day. When COVID-19 started affecting business Lee had to act quickly and decide what to do with all his food stock.
On March 17th HanJan started the “healthcare free meal program”. HanJan provided free meals to healthcare professionals and by March 24th had provided over 500 free meals.
“It boosted morale for our team because even though we weren’t having many orders in the start, at least people were still coming to get their free healthcare meals so all our staff were still working and interacting with customers. It kind of made things normal for us in a time where things were really uncertain,” said Lee.
“On top of that we were able to help the healthcare workers and we were able to keep our food fresh,” said Lee.
The community was very supportive of HanJan’s free meal program. Most healthcare workers would also order an appetizer or a drink on top of their meal to help support HanJan. One regular customer even donated one thousand dollars to the cause so HanJan could continue giving away meals.
By the end of the healthcare free meal program HanJan had given away over 3000 meals.
In response to the rise of the BLM movement in June, HanJan donated $3500 to The Come Up and $3500 to their parent company, The Council for Advancement of African Canadians Alberta. These organizations help empower the black youth community in Edmonton, as well as help fund their programs such as Child Care, Senior engagement, Employment & Skills Development, and Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment.
“I think one of the reasons we are so successful is because we always give back to the community so we have a very good relationship with a lot of different groups,” said Lee.
HanJan Oliver was set up to follow all of Alberta Health Services COVID-19 mandates.
Lee has taken it one step further by setting up an order by text method. Dine-in customers can text their orders without waiting for a server to circle back to their table.
HanJan Oliver is open 11 am to midnight Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays.