What started as her life’s passion has so overwhelmed owner Wen Raiti that she’s closing her restaurant, Hakka Kitchen, on Dec. 18.
For the past five years, she has operated her own organic restaurant and tea room at 14474 Beach Blvd. , initially as House of Leaf & Bean. It changed the name to Hakka Kitchen a year ago to honor its Hakka heritage. She is originally from Guangdong Province in China.
Raiti announced its plans to close in an email to regular customers. She also posted it on November 22 on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
When I called her on the phone at the restaurant, she said that the constant increases in food and rent prices and the inability to provide adequate staff for the work had resulted in her having to work long hours.
“I can’t manage the kitchen and front of the house as well as marketing and social media,” she said.
“I am very tired. I am exhausted. I have been trying to make food for the health of others. I must take care of my own health.”
She said that since the name and menu change to include a few upscale-style vegetarian and vegan dishes, the business has been in decline. In February, Chef Marshall Zimm, who brought several new dishes, left the company.
She added that the newly created organic wine program never caught on.
Since then I have lost one chef to a post office job opportunity. The younger chefs were not familiar with cooking and cooking techniques. Many of the restaurant’s offerings are based on tofu, which is made fresh in the restaurant.
“One chef wanted to deep fry and make things very salty. The less experienced the chefs were, the harder it was to teach them how to understand food,” she said.
Raiti started the restaurant in 2017 after battling diet concerns. American food and preparation techniques did not agree with her. I went back to the Hakka food I grew up on and my digestion issues are gone. I decided to give food to others.
Until the coronavirus pandemic hit, business was pretty good. It even took advantage of a car window that was in the building when it used to be Taco Bell. But escalating costs made its goal of having a team of 10 impossible.
“Today it will be very difficult to keep such a large number of employees. We have to work very lean,” she said.
Prices were raised to meet the rising costs, but that was contrary to its founding philosophy.
“The original intention was to make healthy food more affordable but we had to raise prices and that limited people’s ability to come,” she said.
The new unstable volatility of dinner guests added to the problems of staffing and purchasing food.
Through December 18, it’s offering 50% off its lines of organic teas and accessories. After closing, you intend to sell your remaining tea stock online at houseofleafandbean.com/tea-shop. If this is promising, she said she may continue to make tea online.
Raiti holds a master’s degree in accounting and taxation from the University of North Florida. I worked as a certified public accountant.
Right now, her health is her main concern.
“I want to rest a bit so I can feel more energy,” she said.
“I will say that I will miss preparing food for our regulars. A lot of people come back to eat because they can’t stay home. I especially feel for clients who are on special diets for their health.”
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