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Since March 18th, all non-essential businesses have been ordered to cease operations under the Movement Control Order directive by the Malaysian government.

We ask three of our Prestige 40 Under 40 alumni who are experienced F&B entrepreneurs to share how they have pivoted their operations and strategy to survive the partial lockdown.

 

 

Brian Choo from Soul Society Group

 

What are some of the key changes you have implemented in the business operations since the MCO?

Well, obviously with the MCO, we have not been able to allow dine-in guests. However, we have maintained our delivery and takeaway service for our patrons, to provide some form of normality during this unprecedented crisis. Even so, we have had to take business continuity measures by implementing a team rotation system, as the health and safety of our team especially during the customers’ food preparation process are our utmost priority.

What has been the toughest challenge during this period?

For the management, our toughest challenge is to roll out strategies that will focus on a sustainable strategy to rebuild the consumers’ confidence once the situation stabilises. We also want to ensure that the strategy implemented maintains a certain level of normalcy for our staff, our directors, our shareholders and all other stakeholders, not only for now, but for the medium to long-term future as we begin rebuilding again.

As an employer, what is your main priority at this moment?

Our staff’s welfare, and as a Malaysian-first company, we are also looking at how we can use our platform and capitalise on the resources available to help the community at large, as we are all in this together, many fearful, many confused, we are trying to be a beacon of light during these dark times.

How would you advice other business owners on maintaining a healthy cash flow?

It is simple accounting, the more we spend, the less we are able to save. It is just so important to live within our means, visit every line item on our P&L and ask ourselves whether that expenditure is essential or are we being extravagant.

What is the biggest business lesson you’ve learned from this pandemic situation?

When we were younger, our parents have always told us to save for a rainy day but it has never hit home as much as it has during this period, where we as employers need to step up, dig deep to sustain not only for ourselves but also the whole team. So the greatest lesson is to always save for a rainy day.

Tony Lim from Utara 5 Food & Beverage

What are some of the key changes you have implemented in the business operations since the MCO?  

We have closed 90% of our stores as almost all our stores are located in malls. Our back end office folks too are working from home.

Should business owners consider reviewing their business model? 

From a brick and mortar restaurant operator point of view, online sales channel may become the new normal to consider as part of the business significantly.

As an employer, what is your main priority at this moment? 

Conserve enough cash, stop all optional services, be on good terms with our suppliers and more importantly, make sure our staff retain their jobs. As an employer, we now face multiple unknowns, we can only try to stay afloat.

How would you advice other business owners on maintaining a healthy cashflow?  

Conserve, by all means. When your store front sales are not generating income, the only cash you have is what has been retained before the MCO. Health and life is still the top most priority for all.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from this pandemic situation? 

It is our first time facing one. If we knew this was coming earlier, conserving cash could possibly be the only thing we would have done. After this experience, many things will be viewed very differently. More part time labour, more flexibility in rental with landlords, stock keeping, lean back end team are among some of the things we will look at. However with every crisis, there is also opportunity when things are back to normal. 

Qistina Taff from Serai Group

What are some of the key changes you have implemented in the business operations since the MCO? 

Prior to MCO the nature of business focuses more on the dine-in experience rather than takeaway. Now with the MCO and businesses closed, we have to flip our business model and focus on deliveries which we have never done before. We’re looking to enhance and perfect our delivery system rather than rely on the more popular delivery platforms that are charging exorbitant fees. We are always reaching out to our supporters via our digital platforms for feedback on what they would like to see from us and what we can provide for them. We’re also focusing on digital marketing and social media so we can maintain relevant and present.

 

Should business owners consider reviewing their business model?

Definitely. Businesses now need to be more versatile and adaptable. We will look into downstream production processes such as producing food sauces to be sold at the supermarket.

As an employer, what is your main priority at this moment?

To stay in business, to ensure that we are able to retain our employees and strategise on how to keep our business relevant throughout this MCO. The other grave concern is to maintain staffing. With zero income from our restaurants, we hope that besides the government allocation of RM600 to the staff, they will consider implementing a minimum wage during this MCO period. This is a very crucial move in order for companies to survive and not retrench or shut down their business.

How would you advice other business owners on maintaining a healthy cashflow? 

Look into all the expenses you have. Cut off unnecessary expenses and speak to all your landlords to withhold rental fees. Bank Negara’ssix-month loan repayment moratorium has also helped us.

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Julie Yim
Editor, Prestige MY
Julie is the Editor of Prestige Malaysia and brings with her 8 years of experience in publishing. She has a keen interest in food, fitness, travel, beauty and fashion. More often than not, she tends to overpack her suitcase with gourmet delicacies from her travels abroad.