I’m sitting outside my cafe at one of the alfresco seats with a runny nose this Easter Sunday;
watching the cafe run without lifting a finger and hearing indistinct “The Tiramisu Hero”
uttered by strangers as they walk by the cafe.
For some strange reasons, I have developed a very strong sensitivity to the word tiramisu after the cafe started.
Some of them, who obviously cannot read cursive, thought the cafe is named The Tiramisu Here.
Some thought Sir Antonio is a panda. Or a raccoon.
(He is a cat, by the way.)
I would smile at occasional friendly patrons and toddlers who, for some strange reasons,
always like to stand at the glass doors and stare out at the world outside with their wide eyes.
I also feel a sense of achievement whenever my customers try my tiramisu in the cafe and
end up ordering a few more jars for takeaway.
Other than being able to observe what goes on in the cafe and see what can be improved,
I also get to
eavesdrop hear the funny things my customers say –
most honest feedback about the things that can be improved and the things that we are doing right.
Once in a while, I hear gossips about which server they think is hot or
how they heard the owner of this cafe is a blogger.
Since the birth of the cafe, I have gradually passed on my responsibilities in daily operations to my staff.
Now, I take a backseat and just make sure everything goes on smoothly, and give support whenever they need me.
It is always fun (and fruitful) to take a seat outside my cafe.
If you are also another bright-eyed entrepreneur like me who dreams of having your own cafe someday,
here are a few experiences I’ve earned throughout this couple of months.
Hope they will be helpful to you too!
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I don’t set out to dampen your spirits.
But do note that the F&B industry is as brutal as the American reality shows.
Quoting from The Straits Time SoShiok in a 2013 article:
“Figures from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority show that 575 restaurants
were set up between January and November this year.
This translates to about 52 restaurant openings a month.
During the same 11-month period, a total of 435 restaurants closed,
equating to a nett increase of 140 restaurants, more than double the increase in 2011, when the figure was 59.”
Rent is a big deciding factor to whether your business is sustainable.
But before that, there are still a thousand and one things to worry about.
It is true that money is a very important factor in starting a food business in Singapore.
Renovation, rent, purchasing of equipments and the very big killer – labour costs.
Depending on the scale of your business, I think a good figure to put aside for a small cafe
would be around $60k to $300k; more if you’re looking at having a bigger scale setup.
We started our business with almost $200k.
Don’t expected to take back your money within the first few months of the business.
Typically, it is considerably healthy for a regular F&B outlet to break even after a year of operations.
Everything takes money so it is a very bad idea if you are penniless after starting your food business.
Before the effects of PR and marketing kick in, and before word gets around,
your food business might not be profitable in the first few months.
You will need some money to tide you through those difficult times.
We all know how a good location with good parking area, nice ambience, good service are all important factors
we consider before picking our next brunch date venues.
Thus, scrimping and saving on these might not help in business in the long run.
There are a lot of grants and sponsorships to help budding entrepreneurs in Singapore.
Do read up about them and see what you can get out of these grants.
Not to be a wet blanket, but it is very important to have an exit plan when things don’t go according to plan.
You don’t want to get yourself too badly burnt.
Now you have the capital, all you need is a brilliant idea.
Starting your food business with no plans at all is almost suicidal.
What is your unique selling point? What sets you apart from your competitors?
And even with your awesome concept about the upcoming food store,
you will still need to do lots of research on the different aspects of running a business.
This might sound really mundane but it is also the most crucial part of setting up a food business.
Talk to different people and learn from them. Find a mentor who has similar experiences.
Talk to friends who are already running their food businesses.
What you like might not be what other people like.
Bring out your auntie-most self and go crazy sourcing for suppliers to seek out the best for your business.
Now before you start calling up property agents, be aware of all the licences you will need to apply for first.
There is NEA who will be your new best friend, the one whom you will be calling every other day
to ask for advices for this and that.
When it comes to food businesses in Singapore, the authorities are really strict so
even the kind of soap dispenser, and how high the kitchen tiles go matters.
All the food handlers have to go through a Basic Food Hygiene Course to be certified.
(No more Typhoid vaccination jabs required already)
If you want a Central Kitchen, then you go to AVA, not NEA.
There is also SPF where you go for your liquor and entertainment licences.
SCDF to get your fire safety clearances.
You need a Halal Licence to be certified halal.
As a new business, you cannot hire foreigners too.
And even after 3 months in business, you will still need a certain number of CPF-contributing employees
to be able to start hiring foreigners.
You’ll have to register your business with ACRA, and there is also CPF to have your employees registered.
I’m not so much of a financial person but I’m very big on anything aesthetically pleasing.
I cannot stress how important a well-designed space is.
The internet is boundless if you need inspirations. And there is also Pinterest that has almost anything you need.
But other than having a pretty looking place, you have to make sure the space is practical too.
Run through in your mind how daily operations would be like before you start on the design.
Where does the oven go? Which way does the coffee machine face? What about the cashier?
Is there also a Feng Shui element that you need to think about as well?
There are actually consultants whom you can turn to if you are absolutely clueless about how to plan your layout,
especially the kitchen space.
Having a well thought-out design can help improve efficacy and productivity.
Also pay special attention on how many people you can sit in your cafe/restaurant –
will you be able to sit more customers with a big and gorgeous centrepiece table or multiple smaller ones?
Will you be able to move your seats around to accommodate private parties?
Hiring a good interior designers might be costly but I think it will be money well spent if
he/she is able to give you a good design that is tuned to your theme and practical to work in.
This is the headache I have every single day because labour in Singapore is very expensive.
If you want a young and vibrant working environment with 20-something year old servers, then you might have problem remembering all your staff’s names because the people working for you are changing every other day.
Hahaha! Ok I might be exaggerating a little but honestly, the turnover rate is very high.
Full-timers is hard to find, and full-timers who perform well are even harder to come by.
Then, there is still training, quality control, PR and marketing amongst many, many other problems.
I am now brain-fried and would love to talk about this again if it interests you. 🙂
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Now for something more FUN!
If you have a Diana F+ camera, open your arms and welcome me to the club now because
I just got my hands on my first Diana F+ camera!
It is SO pretty and I’ve always wanted one but for some reason, didn’t get it.
Now I’m looking at all the accessories that are available and I feel like I need every damn thing.
In collaboration with Lomography, we are giving away a Lomography Konstructor camera to one of my readers!
If you like the camera or would like to win it for someone dear,
visit this link and answer a simple question about the Konstructor camera.
The Lomography team will pick the lucky winner at the end of April!
And *hint* here or here might be where you’ll able to find the answer you need. :p
Check out more pictures of the Konstructor camera and some of the images taken by that camera here!
And one more picture of my new Diana F+ ❤
Life is quite stagnant since I just hang out at the cafe every single day.
Sometimes I get to sneak out and “be a blogger” but most of the time, I just stay in the cafe.
I’m glad that my job running a cafe still gives me plenty (actually, a lot) of free time
to still be able to do my blogging stuff.
Write some reviews, take some narcissistic selfies, wear new clothes and take OOTDs.
Be comfortable in my vain and shallow self once in a while. Lol!
A and I. Been a while since we took a nice photo together. :p
She is very much into sewing right now (in fact, she is taking some measurements for her
new sewing project this very moment) and we also bought a new sewing machine!
We went Mustafa late last night and went crazy buying a lot of new fabric.
I hope I’ll be able to personally make a DIY kimono long cardigan for myself! :p
Look at these cute little Sir Antonio big head brooches! Super adorbs.
I also bought my very first authentic Panama hat!
I always thought a genuine Panama hat must be from Panama, but I was so wrong.
Panama hats actually originated from Ecuador and they were around since 17th century!
I bought mine from Hat of Cain. The hat and I have been inseparable since.
Do you know a really good Panama hat can actually be rolled and pulled through a wedding ring?
Isn’t that freaking amazing!
And Hat of Cain is really interesting. They only open from 11am to 3pm on Saturdays but
they are available if you call them in advance to make arrangements for private hat fittings.
Not an advertisement but I think everyone should own a good Panama hat because it’s really suitable for the Singapore climate.
And honestly, people should start wearing more hats. Heh!
hello peggy! how much did you pay for your panama hat?
Jasmine – the hat was S$80.
I’ve been following your blog for quite some time, and I must say this article is very informative for me.
I’m shocked to see the figure you required to set up your cafe – 200K!
Did it come from both of your savings, or did manage to secure bank loans?
eh! didnt know A is so into sewing! ok im gonna reserve a space for her to sell hand-sewn items by A! lol!