This Third-gen seafood restaurant began as a hawker stall – now featured on Michelin, Netflix


Being round for over 50 years in Singapore, Keng Eng Kee (KEK) Seafood began off as a Chinese language wok-style delicacies and has developed over time with the culinary affect from multi-racial residing, completely different dialect teams and internationalisation. 

Embodying the Singaporean spirit of embracing variations and bonding as one, the three-generational enterprise is not simply an genuine Hainanese eatery, however fairly, a meals joint providing a “rojak” of cuisines that everybody in Singapore will take pleasure in.

KEK Seafood Claypot Pig Liver / Picture credit score: KEK Seafood

We’re distinctive in such a method that we’re a heritage model and our delicacies has developed all through the generations. We have now safeguard recipes from the primary technology, similar to our signature Claypot Pig Liver, in addition to the Cuttlefish Kang Kong and Moonlight Horfun from our second technology, and the distinctive flavour of the present technology is the Espresso Pork Ribs.

– Paul Liew, managing director of KEK Seafood

Paul, collectively along with his siblings, have given the enterprise a brand new contact ever since they took over from the earlier technology.

Despite the fact that some would assume that the meals and beverage (F&B) business is a saturated and aggressive one, which makes sustaining a F&B enterprise difficult, Paul shares that “[t]aking over the enterprise was not a tough determination” for him and his siblings.

A solution to acquire misplaced time

KEK Seafood’s story dates all the best way again to the Nineteen Seventies, when Paul’s grandparents migrated from Hainan Island in China to Singapore in hopes of securing a greater life for his or her household. 

They determined to make a residing out of their culinary expertise, and arrange a hawker stall within the Previous Havelock Highway to serve wok-style dishes for dinner and supper. 

Little did they know they have been establishing themselves because the first-generation house owners of present meals joint KEK Seafood, for this hawker stall was then handed on to Paul’s mom who helped out on the hawker stall ever since she was of the age to work. 

KEK Seafood family
The generations working KEK Seafood / Picture credit score: KEK Seafood

When it got here to his technology, Paul shares that they have been supplied with correct training and informed to discover different fields of profession choices. His household was even insistent that they shouldn’t take over the household enterprise. 

“With the lengthy hours and hardship the earlier technology went via, they made a agency determination that we should always pursue different profession paths”, he recollects. 

Regardless of his household advising them to do in any other case, Paul and his siblings — who’ve at all times been serving to out with the enterprise operations — willingly determined to take over the enterprise. 

As hawkers, the bonding time with household has at all times been rare. So, by taking on, we gained not solely additional serving to palms within the enterprise, however most significantly, we gained the misplaced time with our mother and father after we have been children.

– Paul Liew, managing director of KEK Seafood

Since then, they’ve always been making adjustments to the enterprise by implementing what they learnt from college and observing the tendencies within the business.

Household first, enterprise later

Each technology that runs the enterprise faces a singular set of challenges.

For Paul and his siblings, the principle problem was altering the mode of operations. This was particularly tough, for the family-run enterprise already had a sure tradition and behavior in place. 

“It took me [four] years to implement the usage of expertise, similar to putting orders utilizing a pill, as a result of resistance from the older staff who’ve a worry of the unfamiliar”, he mentioned.  

His tip? Adjustments can’t be enforced unto others, so companies ought to start with the coaching of the youthful and newer staff. 

When he and his siblings did that, the older technology was finally satisfied that the effectivity of expertise helped the enterprise to develop, and have been thus extra receptive in the direction of adopting technological practices. 

The subsequent most important problem thrown their method was having to cope with COVID-19, particularly the gloomy interval in the course of the circuit breaker in 2020. Like each different F&B enterprise, their regular mode of enterprise was disrupted. 

That was when Paul’s late grandmother emphasised the significance of going again to their elementary perception — household first, then enterprise. This was a saying that has been informed from technology to technology. 

Throughout this robust interval, KEK Seafood made an effort to maintain their staff intact, to maintain the “household” in “household enterprise” going. “This worth is larger than the remainder of the values handed down”, Paul shares. 

As such, none of their staff have been laid off, nor have been their salaries decreased.

“Our staff even supplied to have a discount of their salaries if wanted to climate the storm along with KEK Seafood. It’s a key achievement for our household enterprise”, he provides.  

KEK Seafood employee
KEK Seafood worker / Picture credit score: KEK Seafood

Working collectively as a household, the tech savvy KEK Seafood in the end pivoted methods through the use of on-line platforms like Oddle and Seize that present islandwide supply. Additionally they learnt learn how to streamline their menu and operations to enhance their supply course of. 

“Despite the fact that enterprise is again to regular with dine-in, our supply income stands about 10 per cent, in comparison with pre-Covid [times], which was lower than 3 per cent”, Paul highlights. 

Drawing from these experiences, Paul notes that one other issue pulling them via these hardships and maintaining them related for greater than 50 years was their communication with their clients. 

Expertise development has allowed us to get suggestions on-line, perceive the altering preferences of diners via social media, however our in-person communication with clients at KEK Seafood has been the identical since day one.

With trustworthy suggestions from current, common or new clients, we hear and work out on how we are able to enhance. If it’s presently past our skill, we hold it in thoughts and work in the direction of it.

– Paul Liew, managing director of KEK Seafood

Opening a second outlet in S’pore

Being resilient third generational house owners of the household enterprise, KEK Seafood has grown to larger heights, similar to being featured within the Michelin Plate from 2016 to 2022, The World 50 Greatest Restaurant: Essence of Asia 2021, and Netflix: Road Meals Asia Singapore.

One other milestone to rejoice is KEK Seafood’s latest outlet opening within the east facet of Singapore at SAFRA Tampines on September 9.

In comparison with their Alexandra outlet that gives an air-conditioned sitting space with 5 tables and is often booked out, this air-conditioned outlet in Tampines can cater as much as a complete of 120 diners. 

KEK Seafood
KEK Seafood’s Claypot Braised Duck with Yam / Picture credit score: KEK Seafood

Diners can sit up for 5 newly launched, unique dishes to rejoice the opening of the outlet as nicely. Two of the brand new dishes — their all-time signature Claypot Pig Liver and Claypot Duck with Sea Cucumber — can be given a contact of how Paul’s household enjoys it. 

Sooner or later, KEK Seafood plans to concentrate on being financially secure to arrange themselves for potential crises just like the pandemic with a view to be dependable pillars of assist for his or her staff and their households.

Featured picture credit score: KEK Seafood

Additionally learn: He grew to become CEO throughout Covid: How Danny Loong led Timbre Group’s survival via robust occasions

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Being round for over 50 years in Singapore, Keng Eng Kee (KEK) Seafood began off as a Chinese language wok-style delicacies and has developed over time with the culinary affect from multi-racial residing, completely different dialect teams and internationalisation.  Embodying the Singaporean spirit of embracing variations and bonding as one, the three-generational enterprise is not…