Tako Chang: a role of many parts

22 June, 2023

Working at Double Chicken Please has given Tako Chang a new take on hospitality. The marketing specialist and now front-of-house boss talks to Oli Dodd.

On first pass, Tako Chang may seem like a strange fit to head up the front of house of New York’s Double Chicken Please. For starters, she doesn’t drink and it’s also her first job in a bar, but really that makes her perfect for a bar that is fast becoming more than just a bar.

The Lower East Side bar started life as a pop-up in 2017, before finding a permanent location shortly before the pandemic forced a long-awaited launch. Since opening, it has become one of the world’s most talked about. Placing sixth, it was the highest new entry at The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022, and in May, DCP was named the best in the continent at North America’s 50 Best Bars.

Chang’s background is in drinks marketing, having spent more than a decade at Heineken and Bacardi in Shanghai, but as a long-time friend of owners GN Chan and Faye Chen, she joined the DCP team as manager of brand marketing and PR communication as well as running the floor and front of house.

“I was with corporate for more than 10 years and it was time to do something different – now how do I take that knowledge and apply it to a smaller entity?” says Chang. “I’ve known GN and Faye for more than a decade, they’re two of my best friends and we share the same vision. I see the potential of how the brand will grow from a marketing perspective. It’s not just a cocktail bar, it’s going to do lots of collaborations to reach more consumers and I’m fascinated by that. Like how do you do a cocktail bar collaboration with a streetwear brand? That’s something outside of the box and I look up to that vision.”

Chang’s career in the drinks industry began in Malaysia after university, but quickly she moved to Shanghai where she first experienced the challenge of explaining new drinking concepts to consumers.

“Beer in China was Tsingtao, but I was at Heineken when the international beer market was coming into China, so it was tough but very interesting to bring new brands into a market like that.

“From Heineken I joined Bacardi to host Bacardi Legacy, and that was a time when no one was drinking cocktails in China. I didn’t know what a cocktail was. All I knew was that you added a lot of ingredients and shook, but I was fascinated because coming from a consumer perspective I thought I could sell it differently, and that was the beginning of my cocktail journey.

“It was interesting trying to educate consumers about Mojitos when they don’t know what rum is, they only knew baijiu. I did the Bacardi Legacy for four years in China and I had to do so much homework, I visited almost every cocktail bar in Shanghai to learn and to explore.

Inside joke

“That’s when I met Faye – she won Legacy China in 2015. I was trying to learn more about cocktails, so I asked her a lot of questions and that’s how our relationship started. She was the general manager at Speak Low, which was one of our key outlets in China, so we had a very close working relationship. Faye then introduced me to GN, we got closer when GN won Legacy [in 2016]. I was drawn to him because he was global champion and he doesn’t drink and I was selling Bacardi and I don’t drink, that became our inside joke.”

When the call came from Chan and Chen for Chang to join Double Chicken Please, she was in Taiwan working at whisky brand Kavalan. “In the beginning they didn’t know that they would need someone with a strong marketing background to join DCP, but right before Covid, when the brand became clearer, they approached me and asked if I wanted to join once they found a location.

“It was a big decision for me. I came to visit New York for two months to really experience being a host at DCP, I hadn’t done any of it before and I was going to become floor captain, bus tables, run food, jump in the line and fry a chicken sandwich, speak to the media, speak to spirits brands about collaborations, pour taptails in the front room, introduce the concepts of the front and back room – it’s a lot a hats, it’s almost like being a walking marketing activation on a daily basis. In those two months I realised I could do it.

“I enjoy uncertainty. It allows for a lot of crazy ideas and room to explore and it’s new and exciting, – for me, that’s Double Chicken Please.”

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