Niki Pattharakositkul


Graced with Purpose

“It was at the age of 26 when I finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of opening my own restaurant – simple as that! ” Niki Pattharakositkul

Niki Pattharakositkul is the owner of 26 Thai Restaurant and Bar.   Niki opened her first restaurant at the age of twenty-six years old.  She is graced with dedication, determination and purpose.   26 Thai Restaurant and Bar is currently located in two locations in the Atlanta metropolitan area.  The restaurant has been bestowed the following awards:  2019 Best of Fooda; 2019 Best of Atlanta Insite Magazine; 2019 Diner’s Choice Open Table Winner; 2018 Best of Atlanta Insite Magazine; 2018 Ten Best National Elite, and the 2017 Diner’s Choice Open Table Winner.

I met Niki on a bright sunny Tuesday afternoon for a sit-down interview at her restaurant located on Juniper Street, right in the heart of Midtown Atlanta.

GJ: Niki, thank you so much for allowing me this opportunity to speak with you about your journey.

NP: You’re welcome.  I am honored that you asked.

GJ: I must start with a quote that captured my immediate attention from your restaurant’s website, “Believe in yourself, even if nobody believes in you.”   Tell me Niki, what does this mean to you?  Is this quote directly or indirectly related to your journey as a restaurant owner?

NP: This quote is directly tied to my journey.  At a young age, I knew I wanted to open a restaurant, although I had no experience.  I remember hearing people say that I am too young.   Further saying that it would be a hard road ahead and that owning a restaurant is not an easy job; even declaring that I would have no life.   Owning a restaurant is exactly what I wanted to do, and I proved it.  I went to Georgia State University and while there I studied Marketing. I decided that I wanted to be my own boss and not have to work for anyone else, but me. 

GJ: Was owning your own restaurant always a dream of yours?  Was there something that sparked this dream of restaurant ownership?

NP: Owning a restaurant was always a dream of mine.  I love eating good food. I also believe that food brings people together. Cooking food reminds me of my grandmother, and I wanted to introduce Atlanta to authentic Thai food.

GJ:  I know that you are a 2012 graduate of Georgia State University.   While there, what did you do to prepare yourself to own your first restaurant at the age of twenty-six?

NP: I knew I wanted to open a restaurant, so the only thing I could do to bring me closer to owning one, was working in a restaurant.  I applied for a server job to see and learn more about the business, the system and practices of restaurant ownership.    I also managed my time and visited different real estate properties.  It took me quite a while until I found the space in Lindbergh, which is where the first restaurant started.  My passion for food and cooking, this was the spark for my restaurant ownership.

GJ:  Niki, do you cook as well or are you solely the owner?

NP: I do cook.  When I was younger, my grandmother would cook, and I learned from her.  She taught me some of her techniques and I wanted to be like her.  I wanted to show people what authentic Thai food is. 

GJ:  Do you have a dedicated culinary staff that specializes in Thai cuisine?

NP: Yes, I do.  I strongly believe in investing in people. I hired one of the Thai chefs who used to work for one of the well-known hotels in Thailand.  She works with me right now.

GJ: Niki, I’ve been to your restaurant twice now and the experience, to include the food, has been excellent each time.   The cuisine is always fresh and delicious.  Did you determine the menu selections?

NP: Yes, I determined the menu selections.   First, I wanted everyone to be able to eat the food, so it came down to me incorporating dietary restrictions, to include gluten free, and vegetarian choices.  I wanted to make sure that there was something for everybody.

GJ: I am an admirer of interior spaces.  Thai 26, Midtown location is quite beautiful with fixtures and pieces throughout the restaurant that show to be authentically from Thailand.   Who designed the interior space?  What was the vision from an interior design perspective?

NP: We don’t really have an interior designer; however, I worked with Jennifer Spielman.  She was a great resource for me.  She provided guidance and direction with the interior space of the restaurant.  Jennifer and I went to Thailand and hand-picked pieces for the restaurant and brought them back from Thailand.

GJ:  Do you have plans to open other locations around the city of Atlanta?

NP: Definitely.  We are thinking to expand to the third location.  But I have not yet decided on the location yet.  It depends on what will be best.  It is coming soon.

GJ: Niki, with any entrepreneurial undertaking, there are challenges.  Everything will not be perfect. What has been one of your biggest challenges with owning a restaurant?

NP: Consistency.  It is tough.  The restaurant business has many variables.  There is food, ambience and service.  There are days when the restaurant is so busy, and it is difficult to manage.   You must make sure that everyone feels welcomed.   I tell all the servers that you must treat everyone like they are special.  When you lose a customer, it is hard to earn them back.  I must learn to balance the equation.

GJ:  What has been one of the biggest success stories since you started 26 Thai?

NP: I’ve been very fortunate.  The first day that the restaurant opened in Lindbergh, it was a full house.  I have also seen my revenue and sales increase about thirty percent each year.   In the third year, we have two locations and now I have more than fifty employees.  I am happy to be able to support a lot of families and not only that, I think that I have a very strong team working with me. The staff loves working here at 26 Thai and they support my brand.

GJ:  What would you say to encourage someone with a dream that has not yet manifested?

NP: First, ask yourself is this something that I really want to do.  Once you know that this is what I truly want to do, stop making excuses.  Get up and work on it.   Looking at the big picture, it may look difficult, but you must take one step at a time.  Don’t give up.  One day you will be able to look back and see your journey of success.

GJ: Niki, in your spare time, what do you like to do?

NP: I love hiking and working out.

GJ:  Niki, thank you so much for your time. 

NP: You are very welcome.

Guest Information

LINDBERGH: 541 Main St NE F170, Atlanta, GA 30324

MIDTOWN: 824 Juniper St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

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