In the fourth part of our Secrets to Success series, Aun Koh shares his thoughts on building a sustainable F&B business in Singapore.
As co-founder of The Ate Group, a communications consultancy that specialises in hospitality and F&B brands, and Chubby Hubby, one of Singapore's most well-read and reputed food blogs, Aun Koh knows good food - and a thing or two about what makes a good food business.
"There is no one thing that contributes to success. But there are things that can break a business. Two things that are vital in remaining sustainable are good people and maintaining reasonable property costs," says Koh. "Unfair or unreasonable rental hikes can kill a business. This is something we've seen far too often."
Rental is an issue that is particularly pertinent to Singaporean entrepreneurs where the average rent is much higher than in other countries. For instance, in Australia the average reported rent as a percentage of turnover in 2015 was between 7-14% for businesses with revenue between $500k to $2M.* By comparison in Singapore, the range was 19-24% in 2014 for small to medium F&B operators.** It is prudent for new businesses to negotiate a cap on rental increments (including any commissions or percentages of gross turnover payable to landlords) to prevent unforeseen rate hikes and expenses.
Koh echoes other chefs and entrepreneurs when he says that good people are another essential - but reminds us that a solid team starts with the employer. "It's not just important for food and beverage businesses, but all businesses. The flip side to this is being a great, motivational and caring employer. It doesn't work to have good people and be an ass yourself. You have to lead by example and take care of your people."
* Australian Government Australian Taxation Office statistics, YA 2015.
** Singapore Productivity Centre; Productivity Benchmarking Report (Food Services), 2014.