“Embarking on the Chinese cuisine route was only natural as I was born into it – my grandparents started the Tai Thong Group while my parents founded the Oriental Group. After 10 years working in the television broadcast industry in Germany, I decided to take the big step to return home to be with my family. As my father is a pioneer in the business, I took a leap of faith and leveraged on this solid support system to learn from the best, which is truly an industry luxury.
It’s undeniable that being in the F&B line means eating a lot – be it food tasting, market research or simply enjoying the glorious food at my outlets! F&B is a lifestyle – you have to live and breathe it. Running a Chinese restaurant, especially a large one, is tough as there are complexities in recipes, service expectations and management. I am involved in almost every aspect of the business, from operations right down to picking up phone calls for reservations. Shuffling between my two outlets (Monte’s Restaurant and Ruyi & Lyn at Bangsar Shopping Centre), I’m constantly checking into operations, conducting several rounds of food tasting with chefs and working on cocktail development with my mixologists. I then head into the office headquarters to work on administrative, finance and marketing tasks, before spending my evenings entertaining friends and customers till late at night.
That’s not all, though! I regularly check out new restaurants and bars in town with my marketing team – one must always keep an eye on the competition! On top of my core businesses, I am also building a European online portal; hence, I frequently conduct conference calls at 2am with my Berlin team every other night.
Despite the fun I’m having with my career, I do have problems in labour scarcity. It’s heartbreaking to see local talents leaving the country for greener pastures overseas. However, I believe that by building a passionate community, they will eventually come home. Keeping this in mind, our vision is to be a culinary institution that will help those who are passionate about the industry and also provide career opportunities that will bring Malaysians abroad home. I’d like to build an international community of chefs, entrepreneurs, bartenders and managers to reignite the passion and pride in the industry, and alter the notion that the restaurant business is a passive cash cow.
The human element plays such a big part in this industry: you have to like people, manage using psychology and keep everyone happy. The delicate supply chain consists of investors, the kitchen team and floor teams, and, ultimately, customers. If your relationship with one goes awry, it can certainly affect the business from operations down to the taste of the food.
On the bright side, Malaysians love good food. Thus, there will always be substantial spending power for food, and I confidently say that restaurateurs will become increasingly competitive to survive in a somewhat trailing economy by targeting the mass market and utilising local produce to keep costs low.
I have big dreams for Ruyi & Lyn’s multi-conceptual premise to diversify and go global, a Malaysian pride to the world as opposed to going down the safe route and being a franchisee. To me, good Malaysian Chinese food should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of race or nationality.”
ART DIRECTION PENNY CHEW
PHOTOGRAPHY LAW SOO PHYE
VENUE RUYI & LYN RESTAURANT & 8 CONLAY SALES GALLERY
This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue of The Peak Malaysia.