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Hustlin' Houston Vietnamese restaurant wins $1M in top industry competition

Hustlin' Houston Vietnamese eatery wins $1M in top industry contest

Savory Fund Saigon Hustle Sandy Nguyen Cassie Ghaffar
Saigon Hustle owners Sandy Nguyen and Cassie Ghaffar. Courtesy of Saigon Hustle

A new Houston restaurant will be able to expand courtesy of a $1 million venture capital investment. The Savory Fund selected Houston Vietnamese restaurant Saigon Hustle as the winner of its Million Dollar Restaurant Launch competition.

The private equity firm picked the Houston restaurant from a pool of more than 240 applicants, according to a release. In addition to the money, the investment brings marketing support and access to tools that allow a restaurant to assess its financial performance.

First launched as a ghost kitchen in 2020, Saigon Hustle opened a dedicated brick and mortar restaurant in February. The fast casual concept offers both well-executed takes on classic Vietnamese fare as well as creative interpretations, such as honey-glazed salmon rolls or a twist on the classic bánh xèo: a flour and turmeric crepe filled with braised pork belly, shrimp, and vegetables. 

Winning the competition will allow Saigon Hustle founders Cassie Ghaffar and Sandy Nguyen to open a second location of the fast casual restaurant. Nguyen tells CultureMap that the duo have been looking in a number of neighborhoods, including Katy, Memorial, and Bellaire-Meyerland. 

"I had tears in my eyes from the overwhelming emotions and we both screamed," Nguyen writes in a message about how she reacted to the news. "This partnership means so much to us."

Asked to elaborate, she notes that Savory Fund's founders have a background in the restaurant industry. They have experience growing restaurants into multi-unit operations.

"More importantly the managing partner also comes from the tech industry," she explains. "They have an amazing team for every aspect to run a successful brand, and that’s what’s so admirable and respectable. We are beyond thrilled at the opportunities we have with them."

Saigon Hustle is one of three establishments Ghaffar and Nguyen operate as part of their Ordinary Concepts hospitality group. They also own Sunday Press, a coffee shop and cafe in Garden Oaks that's adjacent to Saigon Hustle, and Ginger Kale, a healthy eating restaurant in Hermann Park.

“We are thrilled to partner with Cassie and Sandy and select Saigon Hustle as the winner of our Million Dollar Restaurant Launch opportunity,” Savory managing director Andrew K. Smith added. “We are passionate about helping as many restaurateurs as we can because we are restaurant operators at our core. We know the journey from concept to first location and we  know the challenges and struggles that accompany growth from first to second unit and we understand them intimately. We hope to create a lifetime worth of success and inspire other concepts to never give up on themselves."