Momofuku’s former president now has a new role in the empire: Alex Muñoz-Suarez, who joined David Chang’s Momofuku group two years ago as president, will now be the new CEO at Fuku — with plans to lead the fast-casual friend chicken shop’s expansion into airports and stadiums, as well as standalone locations across the East Coast and possibly out west, too.
With the new role, Muñoz-Suarez will no longer be a part of the Momofuku leadership but will instead focus solely on the growth of Fuku. Its the latest change-up in the restaurant empire’s structure; in April, Momofuku named its first-ever CEO, as well as a new CFO.
Fuku was previously small enough to be run by the executive team, Muñoz-Suarez says. Now, the chain has three brick-and-mortar locations in Manhattan, with a fourth on the way at Rockefeller Center; one in Boston; and a growing network of concessions — including three in New York City, plus more in D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, and Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“What happened is Fuku has now become a teenager,” Muñoz-Suarez says. “I volunteered to lead the company into its secondary and tertiary phases of development.”
Muñoz-Suarez says his first priority as Fuku’s first CEO is to open more brick and mortar stores. The new Rockefeller Center location is now under construction and slated to open at the end of summer. Plus, he is looking to expand more in other East Coast markets like Boston, D.C., and Philadelphia, with a potential leap to Los Angeles, too, though nothing has been finalized.
“In my mind I see Fuku as a gateway to all of Momofuku,” Muñoz-Suarez says. “I think our guests are a much more wider band of representation of America’s population than the guests you get in Ko or Ssäm Bar. I envision Fuku being the beginning of the introduction of who Dave Chang is and who Momofuku is.”
That being said, he says diners can expect new menu items and more service than at a typical fast food spot. Fuku’s menu is becoming more vegetarian-friendly to appeal to a wider net of diners, not solely fried chicken aficionados. Case in point: A Mumbai-inspired cumin-laced potato patty sandwich called vada pav was recently added at Hudson Yards, and over in the Financial District outpost, new vegetarian and roasted chicken wraps are now available.
On the service end, Muñoz-Suarez says employees are being trained as “greeters” at Fuku’s Hudson Yards location, where they’ll answer customer questions and pass out treats like slushies while people wait in line. It’s something he aims to incorporate in all of Fuku’s stores, he says.
The chain’s concession business may also grow: Locally, the fried chicken shop has a presence at Citi Field in Queens, Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, and Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Expanding into airports is a potential next step, he says.
To gear up for the growth, Muñoz-Suarez — who previously worked for the Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group group for 13 years during a massive growth period — will be setting up corporate systems and managing the brand’s balance sheet. It’s something he has experience in doing. When he was brought onto the Momofuku team in 2017, he was tasked with creating “the required corporate systems” to support the company’s many restaurants.
Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.