“Would like to know more about equipment for specificconcepts”, “How to sustain a business”, “Information on industry outlook with potential opportunities; both locally and internationally?”, “More case studies and invite more entrepreneurs to share their success story”…
These were just some of the responses received from the participants at our first workshop, held recently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The idea was to bring the Mise En Place magazine to life and emphasise that information and preparation is crucial to improve success rates in the food and beverage industry. It was also an avenue for aspiring restaurateurs and existing operators to speak to the experts regarding set-up, sustaining and improving a food and beverage establishment. We had individuals in the midst of launching their brand, management team of companies with food ventures, students from culinary schools to leaders of project management companies seated together in the hall of NEXUS Connexions that soon became convivial with participants throwing questions to our esteemed speakers.
THE CONCEPT TO START ANY VENTURE
Leading industry professionals who believed in the benefit of such a workshop dedicated their time, even if it meant a less than 24 hour layover for Mr Carl Kjellqvist of Focus Hospitality Inc, Singapore. Opening the first session of the two-day workshop, he introduced what the F&B scene is like today and the myriad possibilities one can venture in the industry (its beyond owning your own restaurant / cafe), and what to do before even thinking about concepts.
Mr Christophe Chatron-Michaud of Yeast Bistronomy Sdn. Bhd. took the floor to share his insights from conceptualising and opening restaurants for Michelin-starred chefs around USA and Europe; and currently his own French cuisine outlet in Kuala Lumpur. He also spoke about life as a restaurateur to give an idea to the participants what real life is, as opposed to the often glamourised lifestyles of chefs seen on television. It was then back to Carl on the importance of concepts and how it is paramount to the longevity of certain brands; yet how does one plan and avoid from falling into pitfalls that will impact the concept?
To bring an experiential element to the session; at least from a dining perspective, lunch was held at Souled Out – a homegrown Malaysian brand that has been in business for 16 years. A restaurant serving multi-ethnic Malaysian delights alongside Western items, we wanted the participants to observe how the brand successfully manages such a concept. Keen observers they were, judging from the multitude of questions they asked our next speaker, Ms Michele Kwok, one of the founder of Souled Out. ‘Concept’ was possibly the most
repeated word of the day but it cannot be stressed enough as Carl tied up the ends with the topic of turning your ideas into reality and what to look out for. Now that the doors are ready to be opened, it was about promoting your brand and maintaining consistency throughout the seasons before closing with a projection of bright sparks and challenges sweeping the food and beverage world in 2015.
TECHNICALS AND PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Day 2 of “A Food Biz Workshop” kicked off with Mr KY Teoh, a food and lifestyle blogger who has notched more than 900 entries of food reviews on his blog www.kyspeaks.com. Speaking from a consumer’s point of view, he mentioned the key considerations that would influence his choice to visit a particular F&B joint or otherwise. With the rise of social media over the recent years, he also shared best practices for business owners to engage key opinion leaders in the web sphere.
After the consumer perspective, we had Mr Rick Chee, with more than two decades of experience in setting up shops for various segments of the industry who followed up on most common mistakes business owners tend to make. He said even the most experienced operators cannot bank on their success rates and believe it will work anywhere, citing examples of famous enterprises trying to enter Malaysia but did not work out and how they have either retreated or re-worked their plan, starting from ground zero. What went wrong for them? This is how volatile the environment can be.
In the operating of F&B outlets, it is how much preparation you have put in before starting up that will determine how well you do. Therefore, the drawing board is your best friend as you will need to plan for development, financial, marketing and advertising, human resource and operations plan. Many entrepreneurs neglect to take note of these issues, believing that they can hire the relevant ones to do it. Indeed, there are the experts but it is important owners understand them as well. His first segment touched on regulations and tenancy guidelines, space planning, designs and drawings alongside with equipment fitout, M&E calculations and preventive maintenance.
For example, if a plate of pasta is priced at 12 dollars, will you be cooking it fresh for each order or pre-cook in a big batch? Are you able to discern which choice will be more profitable? Rick explained that an owner should be at the site most of the day to ensure the daily checklist is accurate – would you know if your supplier is shortchanging your daily 50kgs of chicken because you never weigh them upon delivery? Again, one of the things that many don’t do is writing a Standard Operating Procedure (S.O.P), but Mr Vincent Soon walked the participants through on why it is crucial and how to design one specific to your business.
The workshop was carried out in partnership with Winterhalter and Fridgemaker. The former’s Malaysian team shared on the benefits of dishwashers to create more awareness that technologies can save a business’ expenditure in the long run. “A Food Biz Workshop” was indeed enlightening and we are looking to organise more in the future. For more information on upcoming sessions, do check out our Facebook page or you can e-mail us with any queries: