Krit “Ahm” Sukarom has been the manager at Kuu Ramen (20 John Street) for more than five years. He’s used to chatting with customers amid the noise and bustle at the extremely popular ramen joint, which has been listed in Tripadvisor’s Top 10 NYC Japanese Restaurants for several years running (and currently sits at #2). But times have changed.
“We used to serve 400 or 500 people a day, now it’s maybe 100,” he told the Downtown Alliance. “We used to have six or seven employees working a day, now we have two.” Sukarom said that, on account of the pandemic, sales have dropped 75%. “This is a very difficult time, the most difficult it’s ever been.”
Despite the grim moment that Kuu is combating, Sukarom is quick to point out that it won’t stop their lean operation from packing up flavorful servings of ramen takeout for the neighborhood. And the patrons reciprocate with conscientiousness and courtesy. “New Yorkers are really trying,” he said. “When they see people in the restaurant, they will wait outside. They are careful.”
From a managerial standpoint, Sukarom is serious about the COVID-era’s safety regulations, such as social-distancing measures and keeping occupancy reduced to half-capacity. And wearing masks is no joke. “Everyone has to protect one another,” he said.
He also stressed that his boss, restaurateur Kanruthai Makmuang (who spends her days next door at the Thai kitchen Aroy Dee), has been a huge source of strength and support. “She asks us how we are doing and takes care of everyone,” Sukarom said. “She gives masks to all the employees, and to their families, and also gives food. She is trying to keep everyone working right now.”
With sales low and a reduced payroll, Sukarom currently works only two days per week. So, while he waits to return full-time, he’s taking advantage of the opportunity to spend with his family (watching movies at home, having a drink with Dad) and brushing up on his bass-guitar practice.
Sukarom invites New Yorkers to enjoy a bowl at Kuu and to be doubly happy when doing so, because it supports employees who want to work.
Be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter for more profiles and neighborhood updates.