First timer in managing a food business, his entity was started in September 2014 at China Square Central, with a cosy café setup. Mr Chin was formerly a banker with RBS for 7 years before he switched to the F&B line, after relocating to Singapore in 2000.
He left his comfortable highflying job in banking and finance industry and decided to open his first food outlet with a partner named Mr Tan Chin Hwee, who co-owns the business with him. They both have a deep passion for food which glued them together to this idea to kick start a career with it.
Hardship was experienced in the first 6 months of their passion when business was slow, without much crowd and they had to bite the bullet through with maintenance of operation costs like salaries and rental, so much so that Mr Chin revealed that during which time, his bank was only left with $100 one day, and the very next, he quickly did a funds transfer from his credit card for a cash flow of $20,000.
After the passing 6 months, business luckily picked up gradually and thereafter, in 2016, Mr Chin and Mr Tan saw substantial profits built up then.
In 2017, there was a drought period again, and this is due to the construction works of an emerging hotel just beside his shop that closed off the side entrance to his café. This lessen the inflow of customers however, Mr Chin says it is temporal and that his business will gain more patrons and its presence there will be felt with many tourists staying in the future hotel thus, increasing the patrons to his café eventually.
What is your name and age, are you local?
I am Chin Tse Ming, this year 38 years old and a Singaporean PR.
What makes your business or dishes different from others?
I have more than 100 items on my extensive menu for selection to my customers and I serve restaurant standard’s food at café prices which is a lure for patrons. I also serve coffee with coffee beans imported from Malaysia. In addition to food and beverages offered in these senses, I provide a personal touch with customers in remembering the common dishes that they order frequently.
Why is your shop named as such?
“New Town Café” was adopted from a street name in Ipoh, Malaysia named “New Town” and coincidently, this street is a buzzling one with many food operators selling different types of delicious food to residents there. My popular coffee is also similarly to the coffee sold in the street which offers an equally good quality one.
When was it first established?
In June 2014.
What are your signature dishes?
We have Curry Fish Head; Chilli Crabs; Roasted Chicken in Rose Wine.
What is your favourite local food?
Black Pepper Crabs at No Signboard and Satay at Lau Pa Sat.
What is your secret to keeping customers coming in?
With the right cooking styles to suit the palates of customers, being attentive to their special requests and having sincerity in treating them as like friends.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in food business?
I see it as a challenge for me as I was never in this trade. As I love to eat good food, I decided to venture into this line, foremost, to fulfill my hobby in eating of which whatever I wish to eat for a day, I could ask my chef to cook it, and secondly, I love to cook, thus opening a food café, I could also learn culinary skills from my chefs.
What has been your greatest professional success and biggest setback?
Whenever I receive compliments in my business in terms of fast service and the good taste of my food from customers, that delights me, especially when they return with their whole lot of folks to enjoy my food, that satisfy me.
At times, it is difficult to handle time management in serving the food quickly to customers as some dishes may only be solely prepared by the main chef, and during which he is too tied up to prepare the food for the patrons, they leave without having their meals fulfilled. This upsets me.
What is your comfort food?
Fish Soup at Amoy Street
Do you cook at home?
I only cook over weekends for my family.
What does your fridge consists of?
Seafood; Poultry; Eggs; Fruits
Where is your favourite overseas foodie destination?
I love to visit Taiwan for their Braised Pork Belly Rice.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities as an owner?
I handle the running of operations in finances, quality control and cost control. I search for suppliers and serve the tables. I also manage customers’ feedback and communicating them to kitchen staff and workers daily.
What have been some of your most successful promotions, how are they originated?
Through our own facebook marketing in recommending food promotions constantly and by the mode of distributing pamphlets around our shop’s vicinity.
What are the steps to becoming a restaurant owner?
Main concern for one is hiring skilled workers, you need to have the resources in so. Secondly, the location must be suitable for your business concept, and you must at least have a cash flow ready to sustain the first 6 months to 1 year of business operations that include A&P activities.
What do you think of the current market now?
2017 is the worst hit year for food business in my opinion, as economy is uncertain with people tying up their purse strings in their spending. They are also more selective in their choices of food with smarter group of consumers emerging as a trend. Many new food operators have seen to shut down their shops in this year.
How do you think it will be in the next 10 years?
Technological equipment will enter aggressively with automated machines in preparing food.
What would your last meal be?
New Town Cafe
Address: 20 Cross Street #01-01/02 Singapore 048422
Opening hours: 7am – 9pm on Weekdays, 11am – 9pm on Sunday and PH. Closed on Saturday.