Frozen food entrepreneur Tsao, 55, dies

Michael Tsao, president and chief executive officer of Kahiki Foods, died July 22, 2005, of heart failure resulting from diabetes-related complications. He was 55.

Tsao was born in Shanghai, China, and immigrated to the United States at age 18 with $100 in his pocket. He began working as a dishwasher in Los Angeles and eventually became general manager of Trader Vic’s in the Beverly Hilton.

In 1978, Tsao moved to Columbus OH and became part owner of the Kahiki restaurant. He also owned and managed a 400-room hotel, a Chinese fast food chain, and a steakhouse in the next decade. Under his direction, the Kahiki was named as “One of the Top 100 Restaurants of the 20th Century.”

He led an initial public offering in 1993 that made Kahiki a publicly traded company, using the money to establish a 7,000-square-foot frozen food plant next to the restaurant. The company moved into a 22,000-sq-ft frozen food plant in August 2000. Under his leadership, the company expanded distribution of Kahiki brand frozen foods throughout the United States and into several nations, growing to about $19 million in net sales at the end of the past fiscal year. Sales growth necessitated the recent move into a new 119,000-sq-ft frozen food plant in Gahanna OH.

Tsao is survived by his wife of 33 years, Alice, and sons Tim and Jeff. The family requests that memorial gifts be sent to the American Diabetes Association.

TAGS: Foodservice
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