Tell us how you started?
We came up with an idea in 2014 to open a concept cafe as a gathering place for the neighbourhood as it will create more interactions and communications among the youngsters, adults as well as senior citizens. There is not many cafe in this area at that time. In the beginning, we only served desserts, coffees and light food however as our business grew in 2017 from a corner shop lot to 2 shop lots side by side, we have increased the variety of dishes comprising Asian and Western cuisines to cater to the demand of our customers.
In 2018, we decided to explore the shopping mall market with the launch of another 2 outlets in Suria Sabah and Imago Shopping Mall serving cakes, desserts and beverages for shoppers to hangout and chill.
What is the strength of your company?
Our cafe started to became popular when we launched our signature Matcha Ice-cream and the flavour is customised by us to suit the taste buds of Malaysians as I (Ms Jane) personally love Matcha very much. We diversified our Matcha series later into beverages as well. Besides that, our pasta is also one of our signature and top selling dish. Currently, we have a total of 18 types of pasta with soft shell crab, smoked duck carbonara and chicken aglio olio being the best sellers. We also came up with the vegan pasta to cater for the vegetarians and vegans.
We are constantly adding new dishes to our menu and at the same time maintaining the food quality as well, as it is a priority to us.
We also came up with an SOP on the food preparation for quality control and it is also a guideline for our newly joined chefs to ensure that the taste and quality can be maintained.
We also do not use any pork and lard. Therefore, our cafe caters to multi-race customers with friendly workers with a cozy environment.
|Crowd 99 Café serves a variety of mouth watering Asian and Western dishes.|
“We have to come out from our comfort zone to overcome new challenges”
What were some of your challenges?
As we are the pioneer in the neighbourhood when we first started, the path has been quite smooth until a few years later, when we began to face competition around us. Currently there are more than 10 cafes in this area. We have to continuously offer more food varieties such as western food, Asian cuisines and shaved ice, as well as create different choices and flavours in order to attract and maintain our customers. Consistently providing good service together with reasonable prices are also the key to our business sustainability.
What has been your experience during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our sales have dropped by about 60% to 70% since the first MCO was announced. We noticed that our biggest expenses were the salaries and we had no choice but to reduce the salaries of the workers. However we implemented job rotation to commensurate with their salary reduction. With this implementation, we managed to control our expenses and at the same time prevent our workers from being laid off.
We also reduced our utilities usage such as using 1 fridge instead of 2, as there were not much ingredients to be stored. We tried to optimise ingredients storage as previously, there were high wastages of raw materials due to MCO.
We also started using food delivery services and our own delivery, as well as doing upselling by giving attractive promotions to increase our sales. Another effort that was done was to diversify into ready made frozen food such as vacuum packed marinated meats, chickens and soft serve for distribution to fresh markets and supermarkets such as Foodmart.
“You must have passion in what you are doing or going to do’’
|A night scene at Crowd 99 Café|
What are your future plans for the business?
We plan to open more shops and also change the concept of our cafe to make it more affordable for the other surrounding neighbourhoods. We will also add in more food variety in our menu such as Portuguese egg tarts, Korean garlic cream cheese bun and Hainan chicken pao. As there have been enquiries on our café business, we may consider franchising if there is a right partner in the future as part of our expansion plan.
My (Mr Aaron) advice is you must love and have passion in what you are doing or planning to do. For young entrepreneurs you must be hands on and participate in your business operation in order to run the business smoothly. Start from small first to gain experience, knowledge and customer base, and be confident to dream big later. Always adapt to the latest trends such as touchless transactions and E-wallet payment. Dare to fail, learn from past mistakes and you will succeed from there.