Coming from a family that was very much involved in the hospitality and food and beverage field has definitely rubbed off on Mr Dick Seow, the current Managing Director of Artizen Pte Ltd. According to him, 44 years in the industry does not tire him, in fact, he was a picture of optimism and enthusiasm during the interview as he spoke of the possibilities in this rapidly evolving industry. This company was started together with his late brother, Mr Andrew Seow in 2003, to provide services to foodservice proprietors, coming in with an edge – Artizen is at the heartbeat of Singapore’s food culture and better understands how a business might achieve its full potential with the best possible configurations in terms of kitchen concepts and design, equipment specification, installation and after-sales services.
Its wealth of knowledge on the technical side of operations combined with an understanding on how Singaporeans desire their food experiences to play out led to Artizen becoming a long-term partner for local brands such as Astons. What began as a coffeeshop, Astons Specialties was serving quality Western cuisine to the masses at affordable prices and soon grew to become a household name with more than 30 outlets combined, including Astons Steak & Salad and Astons Express with every kitchen requiring differently according to the food served.
Another example of Artizen’s touch is Hot Tomato; a small Western cuisine restaurant that focuses on casual dining and for the brand to expand from 1 outlet to 7 within 3 years, the centralised kitchen system was recommended. This helps to control the quality of food in all outlets and reduces the need for manpower, which is a big problem in the food and beverage operations that nobody will deny. He advises owners that aim to run more than 5 outlets to opt for central kitchens because you can break down the logistics divide, reaching out to more segments and if done right, brand development would fall in place eventually.
Along the same line, Dick opines that restaurateurs should really star t looking into automation whether standalone outlets or of chain-type businesses. Especially with the recent introduction of a grant by the Singapore government to businesses that adopt technology; “It could be something as basic as a dishwasher or combi-oven but it will encourage businesses to think of applying automation to maintain or reduce overall operation costs while in the meantime, improving productivity” said Dick.
Dick believes that when more businesses learn how to manouvere technology to get the right results, the savings are not only in terms on the dollars and sense. Consistency and quality control features offered in many equipment today has an impact on your brand name – therefore your returns far outweigh the costs of investment. Adding to that, Dick believes that the next big thing in equipment is most likely the pressure-braising pan that effectively retains the juices in the meat for tenderness while rethermalising or regeneration especially for large volume production is more efficient and smart in terms of energy reduction.
A WIDER PERSPECTIVE
No doubt Artizen is committed to serve and grow together with startups helmed by passionate Singaporeans but to remain competitive in this fickle and often volatile industry, it wisely embraces diversity. Hence, from independent brands, the company has been extending its reach to serving the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) industry. One can say it was almost a natural progression based on its association and work carried out for brand like Henny Penny, Electrolux, Manitowoc, Middleby Marshall, and many more. The consistent support provided by Artizen to these brands have garnered the trust of principals to provide the sales and service support such as setting up the Prince Castle Distribution Center to distribute the brand’s products exclusively in the Asia Pacific and Middle East region. Meanwhile, for brands like Firex, Moduline and Silko, Artizen have set up a joint venture company with a representative office that focuses on servicing the brands’ customers for the South East Asia and North Asia market.
The company understands that equipment and parts, especially in restaurants that depends very much on them for consistency, quality and quantity – the time from point of purchase for a replacement, installing them and maintaining them is crucial at ever y point. Artizen carries stock in-house for some brands, while working closely with their principals to shorten the delivery of these equipment. As for spare parts, the company has spare parts available on hand, backed up by a team of trained technicians.
Every brand represented is handled by a dedicated manager and together with the in-house chef, training and support is offered. Artizen’s newly revamped showroom space boasting about 1200 sqft houses various equipment, doubling up as a test kitchen for prospective customers to watch demonstrations and try the equipment with the assistance of its in-house chef.
If food trends are any indication, the notion of eating is very much moving into the direction of “living to eat” where awareness, discernment and preferences are coming into play. Gastronomic pleasure seekers flock to premises that show forth an edge, even if it was just a slight one. Combined with the multi-ethnicity element of the Lion City, big food brands, eateries linked to hospitality and tourism as well as artisanal outlets have probably no better time to strike the right note than now.
This phenomenon was well envisioned by Artizen and one of its core missions is equipping the business with the right product; through representing brands that are dedicated to manufacturing a particular type of equipment. While some products might overlap within its line of brands, Dick sees that every brand brings its individual strengths and consumers should be provided with options and Artizen’s purpose is to listen to what they need and recommend the most suitable item. Be it for a project that they are handling or a retail purchase required for an existing outlet, Artizen wants to be able to offer an equipment that suits best.
Cliché as it may sound; the one element that cannot be negotiated is passion, according to Dick. Through the years, from what he has seen and the countless people met, he noticed that passion and desire is the driver for them to seek the avenues to make their dreams a reality. Yet, loving something is an action and
it is companies like Artizen Pte Ltd that meet these pioneers halfway and provide the tangible facets of a food business. In just a little over a decade, the company’s expertise and deep insights has reaped repeat customers from the local frontier but has successfully brought it recognition from world renowned brands that deemed it an ideal collaborative platform to enter markets in this part of the world – a region that is still relatively untapped in many places and which is why individuals like Dick Seow is always up and about, observing the industry because opportunities are everywhere but it takes someone who understands its potential to make the right move.