Food & Beverage (F&B) concepts

>> Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Last Friday, I had lunch at a restaurant belonging to a friend's family company group. The group's F&B chains include a local staple food, a snack chain, a dessert chain, and the latest one, the where I ate last Friday, is Korean food. I was in awe as I listen to him talking about their business.


Most of us probably have fantasized about having our own F&B business at some time or other. What's yours?

For me, these are the 3 concepts that I like to 'berangan-angan' about. I say 'angan-angan', because I don't foresee myself actually going to do this for real. Not yet anyway.

1. Drive-through meals. Now, the only drive-through options we have are fast foods. But why not for other types of food as well? As a working mother, there are days when I could be too tired or too late to cook after work, so I relish these take-away or drive-through options. Even the convenience of not having to park and get out of the car to buy food is very much appreciated! There will be less than 10 menus offered, food that majority Malaysians are used to, like nasi ayam, nasi lemak, nasi minyak, kue tiaw goreng, fish and chips, etc. These will be pre-packed in nice transparent containers, ready to be placed in plastic bags and paid for. The outlet name will be 'Tapau' or 'Dinner Box', the location must be a heavy traffic area where people pass by on their way home from work.

2. Ok, this is not so much an F&B outlet but more of a social website using the idea of internet as the effective connector between supply and demand. A customer may browse the options (depending on location/menu) offerred by home 'chefs' and pre-order meals to be picked up on the specified date. The idea is - mothers cooking at home can just size up whatever they are planning to cook for their own family, extending their 'service' to outsiders who maybe looking for good home-cooked food. So, it's a win-win situation for both parties. The web could be named or, depending whether the business model is designed to appeal more to the service provider or to the customers. This idea is not my own actually, it's from here.

3. Ice-cream parlour! My fantasy from 10 years ago, but not so much now - it has dropped to number three spot. I have sweet tooth - I fancy all sort of sweet desserts, including ice-creams. Some 10-20 years ago, we don't have much of shops specialising in ice-cream, but recently frozen yoghurt chains spring up like nobody's business, so this is not exactly a novel concept.


Recently I read Philip J Romano's book, 'Food for Thought: How the Creator of Fuddrucker's, Romano's Macaroni Grill, and eatZi's built a $10 billion Empire One Concept at a Time' - it was quite enjoyable. That was the first time I heard of him, said to be the "Steven Spielberg of the restaurant industry". In this book, he told of his background, his first ventures into business, how he conceives his restaurant concepts and how he executes his ideas, as well as his failures. He has lauched more than 25 dining concepts so far.

He propels the idea about exhibition or demonstrative cooking/kitchen, so that people can see how their food is being prepared. He also likes for customers to be able to see the food being used in the cooking, so sometimes storage is open near the customer area rather than hidden at the back. He calls it 'truth in feeding'. He likes to make the customer feels some form of ownership over the restaurant. He's very creative, not just in creating concepts for his restaurants but also in marketing and management strategies. After opening Fuddrucker's, a hamburger restaurant, he created Hamburger Appreciation Society of North America (HASNA). Guess who won the best restaurant award? To counter slow sales on Monday and Tuesday night, he announced a msytery free dinner night once a month which could fall either on a Monday or Tuesday. To reduce the amount of dish broken, he announced a bonus amount. Each dish broken will be deducted from the bonus, the remaining amount goes to the staff. Compare this against deducting from the person's salary.

Conveniently, the book contains an Appendix B which listed down Phil Romano's Food Concepts in chronological order. I'll pick some to share here:

The Key Hole (1969). Members-only upscale bar with key-access only. Engraved customer names on bar for a charitable donation. Wall-to-wall portraits (caricature) of customers. (Customer ownership)

First National Bar & Grill (1974). Restaurant on the bottom floor of office tower. Charged by the minute for (buffet) lunch. (Because limited space to cater to big office lunch crowds means they need fast customer turnover).

Pasta Palace (1975). Movie house turned restaurant. Terraced seating, silent movies, menu on screen. Visible pasta machine, deli in front lobby.

Fuddruckers (1980). Upscale hamburger restaurant featuring exhibition cooking, on-premises bakery and butcher shop.

Romano's Macaroni Grill (1988). Northern Italian fare, exhibition kitchen, chef-driven operation. Summer & winter menus. Contrast of upscale and downscale design elements.

Nachomama's (1992). Authentic Mexican-Mexican food, multiple frozen drink machines, zany decor, bilingual wait staff.

EatZi's (1996). Restaurant-meal replacement concept featuring fresh restaurant-quality take-out food.

Hunger Busters (2000). Rolling soup kitchen operated by The Food Foundation, founded to feed and clothe the homeless.


Also, if you are into the F&B business, you might want to drop by PWTC this 12-14 July for the 13th Malaysian International Food & Beverage Trade Fair.


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