Datin Maureen Ooi
During the height of the pandemic Datin Maureen Ooi saw a 90% drop in sales, she tells us about the struggles she faced during the pandemic. She had to pivot her business plan, go digital and invest in other businesses to keep her restaurant afloat. Madam Kwan’s business suffered because they rely highly on foot traffic and dine-ins, their outlets are located in major shopping malls with demanding rental.
The Peak finds out how your favorite Malaysian restaurant made it through the toughest times. We’re delighted to be able to enjoy the Nasi Bojari for dine-in once again.
Check out our video interview
The Peak interviews Datin Maureen Ooi for our October Digital Cover story.
Madam Kwan’s is a crowd favorite when it comes to Malaysian food, What’s the secret behind its success?
Seriously, after 20 years in this business, I don’t think there’s a secret. But there is one thing that stands out within the company, which is companywide for us is our quality DNA. We emphasize a lot daily on how a product should look like. We are actually pretty quality-centric people. Our ingredients must be of certain specs and, it’s a long story, and the ingredient list is very long. The company has one of the things that we do religiously, is that we have zero tolerance for product or ingredient specification. If you are our supplier, you know that we are quite difficult in that sense. For example, a chicken drumstick must be of a certain size, 250 grams and the chicken must be bred by certain days and the cucumber must be of a certain length. And the list goes on. That’s the real work behind the scene.
How has the pandemic affected your business? What changes did you have to make to your business plan?
I think that the pandemic is not good for businesses like us. Because we are a food business with many dine-in restaurants with high capacity and very high rent. So, it is really a very difficult time for us. When Wuhan was down, maybe in January, I heard stories but we still had a queue outside most of our shops. And I spoke to some of my friends who are CEOs in Chinese companies in China Mainland and they shared with me, they said that revenue is down 90%. And at that point in time, I realised, what do you do when the revenue is 90% down? Who do you pay? Do you pay the rent first? Do you pay your people first or do you pay the creditor first? And so, We started to do a lockdown drill. We anticipate what’s going to happen when the lockdown comes for us. We were pretty early in doing the simulation. But by the time March 2020 came, no-drill can prepare you for this. It is a reality check for the business.