MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (WABC) -- A New Jersey Ramen restauranteur was on a meteoric rise before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Ani Ramen House is a boutique Ramen House started right here in Montclair NJ in 2014. Owner Luck Sarabhayavanija had 5 successful boutique Ramen restaurants, serving up artisanal noodles and four more outposts were slated to open this year.
"We currently own and operate five restaurants right now; Jersey City, Jersey City-Harborside, Summit and Maplewood, New Jersey," said Sarabhayavanija. "We have four more opening up; we're going to be opening up inside the American dream, New Brunswick, Newark, and the next opening is Cranford, New Jersey."
2020 had all the makings for a banner year with no thoughts a pandemic could jeopardize everything...
"There is no way to process it. There's no way to plan for it. There's no amount of schooling," said Sarabhayavanija. "It was 20 years in the making and to have it all come to a crashing halt in one weekend is surreal."
After donating a final meal of 15,000+ bowls of ramen, the self-described 'Hospitality Addict' decided to collaborate with the Be Awesome to Somebody charity group and repurpose the restaurants as a non-profit take-out restaurant.
"Traditionally the profits go to the owners, the members the investors, this is 100% non-profit restaurant, all of the profit goes back into providing more meals," said Sarabhayavanija.
No noodles on the menu, but diners will chow down on Rock City Pizza (Detroit style) or Bang Bang Thai Rotisserie chicken.
The food selection isn't the only thing that's different. It will be sold at a discounted rate and patrons will have the opportunity to donate food to first responders and the needy every time they order. The first restaurant is set to open in Jersey City on 4/24.
"The meals will be sold for take-out and delivery at a discounted rate. When you check out you'll have the option to donate a pie for someone else in need at half the price," said Sarabhayavanija. "The first half will go to first responders and the 2nd half will go to those in need."
The first restaurant is slated to open in Jersey City on April 24th. Luck hopes to be able to bring back half of his employees with the new venture.
"If all goes well we want to keep this going our hopes and dreams are to keep this going," said Sarabhayavanija.
But North Jersey Ramen fans fear not... Ani Ramen will be back as well.