Hello! Who are you and what food business did you start?

Hey it’s Krystal here and holla from Wang Yuan Cafe. At Wang Yuan, you can find Local Singaporean traditional and fusion delights, freshly roasted in-house coffee beans and handcrafted snow ice desserts made in-house too! 

Impressive spread.

We are proud to say that we are the very first in Singapore or even in the world to introduce and combine 3 specialized concepts all under one roof.

Many asked us why would we want to do this, such a large menu is definitely not an easy feat. But for us, it has always been our aim to be able to create that one-stop dining destination for everyone. At the same time we want to be the best at everything that we do.

In the past, people use to say that less is more in the F&B industry. But here we are tested and proven that there is a need for such a convenient dining destination in the 21st century.

It is now more than the lifestyle and overall ambience that a restaurant or a cafe gives rather than just the food itself. More to the above, this is also an extremely effective way to bring down and balance your profits and food cost, which is the constant challenge in every F&B place.

What’s your typical revenue?

An average of $50,000 onwards monthly.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the restaurant?

This concept had actually been founded by our founder (Mr Jeffrey). He gifted us with this extraordinary concept of how people from all generations could gather together at a single place that had basically almost everything from food to drinks to dessert in the same menu.

What is most mind blowing is that he showed us how it is possible to be universal, to make everything in the menu so good and how to keep it constant. This, many may not know, it is something that is almost impossible to achieve in the fast-moving F&B scene in the world.

A delicious entree.

You may have local food, desserts and coffee in the same menu, but never would you be able to specialize in the 3 of them at the same time. However because of Mr Jeffrey, this was actualized at Wang Yuan.

All locals love the coziness and convenience of our place and awe at our attention to finer details and the friendly customer services. As for the tourists, they find it unbelievable that local food can have of these standards and that everything on our menu is truly delicious.

But above all, what we are really trying to do here is to sustain our local traditional roots by using food to bridge the generations together. This is essential especially as we are moving into the millennial era where everyone is becoming discerning and more aware of their choices as well as having almost everything at their fingertips due to technology.

We want to be able to elevate and modernize the traditional experience for the millennials as they are the next big group of consumers in the market. This way, this new emerging group of consumers would then be able to resonate and relate to our traditional roots better and sustain it for their generation and the next.

Take us through the process of developing your recipes.

We were blessed with secret recipes passed down through the founder’s family. Local traditional delights were curated from it and some fusion dishes and desserts as well. Albeit having the secret recipes from the rich heritage of the founder’s Peranakan family, the constant pursuit of improvement and perfection is the reason why our loyal fan base is strong.

We hold a strong R&D culture here at Wang Yuan where recipes are looked and relooked upon every 2 to 3 months to make sure that the quality remains constant. At the same time, we are always talking to our customers to hear their feedback and suggestions for the development of our new menu items. All the food that we have on our menu goes through months of tasting, redefining and plating until we have the perfect item for our customers.

We would then observe people’s behavior and hear their conversations to better understand what would possibly appeal to them and in what way or through what medium. In this 21st century, it is more than just fresh ingredients and good recipes. What we have understood is that it is about the entire package.

From the way how the food is presented, whether or not it engages with the 5 senses of the consumers and the aftertaste and the “after feel” of the entire food experience. Hence one of the bigger challenges is to find out exactly how to create the magical moment for all your patrons.

However, behind the scenes you have to make sure that you have a strong team to know how to work the numbers, manage the manpower and smoothen the operations. At the same time, how to empower every member of the company to put on their thinking cap and work the gears to see how they can contribute to sail the company to greater heights. 

Describe the process of launching the business.

It was tough at first and there were a lot of mapping out to do. Mainly because you had to set everything up while figuring it out whether it had worked and appealed to your consumers the way you have envisioned it. Don’t be surprised to find that things normally do not work out the way you want.

Hence, make sure that you do not just only have Plan A to C but all the way to Z. Also, do not panic at all times and just go with the flow. Sometimes you would be able to see better results this way.

Make sure to set out your presence where your identified target audiences are. One shoe does not fit all and thus you really need to understand and identify who your REAL audience are and where are they. Take for example, Wang Yuan initially thought that we would be catering to the masses where most of them would be under the profile of the normal class of working adults for their everyday meals and enjoyment.

However as time goes by, we realized they were not the people that we had to talk to. The ones that truly appreciated our food and culture were the ones who enjoy lifestyle and quality food, mainly the millennials and the higher class of working adults. Only when we retargeted these group of people that the sales started picking up.

Being in the F&B industry means you would need to have a lot of patience and a lot of creative juices. It is competitive. You need to constantly be kept on your toes to think of all ways to drive sales in and make sure that you would not have just one stream of income.

You would probably not be able to see many customers at the start or they would come and go erratically. As long as you persevere and make sure you are really trying all ways, you will breakthrough in the end. However, be sure to never ever ever just sit there and wait for the customers to walk in. If you do that, be prepared to wind up your business very soon.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Number one and only golden rule is CUSTOMER SERVICE. There is a saying in the industry that sometimes it’s not about the food, it’s about people. You can be a Michelin starred restaurant, but it is only perfect when you have the right people serving you and the right ambience.

So make sure that you treat all your customers with sincerity and a big heart no matter if they are nice to you or not. You may never know if they could become a regular.

Number two is really to constantly keep up with the trends. Make sure that you have new items frequently so that customers will start to want to keep on coming back regularly for more. It keeps the brand refresh and relevant.

Number three, be visually appealing. Now you might not be one that values only on how things look. But unfortunately the society is now filled with visual animals and it is for the longest time the most effective way to catch people’s attention. To get free advertising, make sure that your food is insta-worthy so everyone would be tempted to take their phones out and share the pictures on their Instagram.

At the same time, be sure to put your presence and content onto your social media and website so people know where to google for more information of your brand. Google reviews are very important too because consumers usually look for assurances when it comes to trying new food.

Number four, be ORGANIC. Make sure your contents and reviews are true and organic. People of the 21st century are getting smarter and smarter. Many would be able to differentiate between a paid/sponsored post and something that is organic. Credibility is the most important here which is why back to rule number one, customer service. Be nice to everyone. You would never know if they will be the one to give you the 5-star ratings on Google.

Number five, marketing marketing and more marketing. You need to reach OUT and not wait for customers to come in. Hence, understand where your audiences are and do everything you can to reach out. But importantly, please do your calculations first.

Make sure that the numbers you put in will ROI within the month or else start to move on to something else. Curate the marketing mix best suited for your brand. For example, what works for us would be radio, social media and a lot a lot of word of mouth marketing.

At the same time we would reach out to offices to take in corporate orders and how we can cater for their events. We would create coffee workshops or collaborate with artists to hold art classes here to drive new customers into the shop.

If you do not know where to start, always look at your competitors and ask yourself how come it works for them and in what way can you make it work for your brand. Never duplicate what they do, instead learn what worked and then make it better and more customizable to your brand.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

This new one-stop dining destination concept is definitely playing out well because we have seen the consumer’s average spending increase at least by 18% due to eating both the mains and dessert or drinks and dessert in one sitting. They no longer come here to eat just one thing but to enjoy an array of amazing dishes at one go.

Currently we can see the scales moving upwards and we are currently on the lookout for expansion opportunities. We have built a unique franchising model that would definitely take the market by storm. But unable to reveal more details at this point.

Near future, Wang Yuan aims to not only expand wide in Singapore but to bring our local roots overseas for all to enjoy. We are currently in talks to merchandise our coffee and tea leaves as well.

We do not aim to just be an F&B brand and will look into other areas of investments at the same time. Thus if there are any like-minded people interested to come on board or to even invest in Wang Yuan, please feel free to let us know and we would be more than willing to explore further.

Through starting the restaurant, what have you learned?

Staying alert and being more conscious in every moment. In F&B you really need to be constantly analysing all the responses and thinking of how we can make it better and better. Our mistake initially was that we never responded fast enough and we were not brave enough to be different. That had actually made us gain more losses in the process. When you are creating something new, it is ok to be different.

Another thing is to really stay calm and do not panic. There is always a way to solve a problem, you just have to think hard enough and you will be able to find a solution.

Nothing is impossible, what is most important is that you do not give up. Be receptive to everything even if that means you got to accept that you are wrong, you made a mistake. You will get through, only if you try hard enough.

What tech or cooking utensils couldn’t you live without?

Invest in technology and software that can really help your business. For us we looked into CRM to build customer loyalties and survey programs to keep track of feedback and suggestions from the consumers.

These are really what you need to keep your customers and attract new one. If say kitchen equipment, please do not take away our hand blender. HAHA.

That is our ONE-STOP SOLUTION to a lot of the production processes that we do.

Who inspires you as a business owner?

Books are a luxury to us. We belong to the batch that watches Youtube haha. (Cus it’s faster) Some inspiration and influence would definitely be people like Jack Ma and Steve Jobs. Look at their mindset and compare it with ours. Identify the differences and think of how we can then elevate our mindset.

Constantly browse through marketing tactics online and look at brands that are extremely extremely successful. We look at brands like McDonald’s, Starbucks and constantly ask ourselves if we want to be as successful.

If we want, what is our next step and the next and the next. Sometimes, it’s not about the calibre but the mindset of the leader.

Advice for other food entrepreneurs?

Plan, plan, and more planning. Always have a back up plan somewhere.

Never sit on things and say that you are not ready or wait to get it ready before you do something. Start somewhere or you will never start at all. 

Do not be afraid to hear what other people are saying. There will be a lot of nasty stuff along with some good ones. But most important is yourself, your stability and your heart. Do you really want to do this and if yes, always ask yourself what is next, do and move on. Get hustling.

Always stay humble, because it is the only way you can make improvements for the better. It makes you not stay stagnant.

Where can we go to learn more?

Want to start your own food business?

Hey! 👋I’m Brett Lindenberg, the founder of Food Truck Empire.

We interview successful founders and share the stories behind their food trucks, restaurants, food and beverage brands. By sharing these stories, I want to help others get started.

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