“In the early 1990s, my parents were shareholders in a chain of Western food restaurants. Then, in 2005, my sister and I ventured into school canteen operations at KDU College, Sri KDU, Tenby International School and Wesley Methodist International School, ”Chris shared.
Shortly afterwards, the brothers set up a neighborhood restaurant in Damansara Jaya (DJ) that served comfortable Malaysian food (DJ) called CintaRia @ DJ (CintaRia) in 2007. With an average monthly income of € 60 to € 80,000, the revenue fell to less than 20% when MCO 1.0 went into effect in March 2020.
“With frequent school closures, reduced catering to zero and a huge payroll, we had to make a drastic decision to reduce the size of the team and even close our restaurant to DJ,” he told Vulcan Post, a 42-year-old.
“We’ve probably adjusted the saying, ‘from zero to hero,’ but the opposite, for now.”
CintaRia has been within reach of even pre-pandemic food, but with its own fleet that later had to be auctioned off to increase the business’s cash reserves.
Jumping on food delivery platforms was also a futile effort. Most of their customers consist of the larger population in the neighborhood who are usually unable to bear the high delivery costs and prefer to go for a takeaway.
The fierce competition at GrabFood and Foodpanda didn’t help either, nor did the plentiful choices of thriving mom and house cooks selling their dishes online.
In a desperate attempt, the team began approaching residents of nearby condominiums, offering food packages through group purchases. But all this effort only meant raising Cintatia’s average monthly income to RM 1,000.
Struggling to keep the lights on, CintaRia waved its white flag for a year at Malaysian enclosures. On March 21, 2021, the business was officially closed.
Chris’s school canteen operations also suffered as education moved online. “Without government or school management subsidies, we were left with ample stocks, job cuts and zero income from all angles,” he enumerated. He led his collaborating schools to terminate their contracts, as it also made no sense for educational institutions to bear these costs.
If you can’t beat them, join them
With more than a decade of experience in the F&B industry, the Chin family does not lose its experience. Nichole, Chris’s wife, saw the rise and acceptance of the market for home cooks and bakers selling their food online, and decided to join the trend mynicholescakery (Nichole’s Cakery Cafe).
The only problem was that neither Chris nor Nichole were smart enough to operate a purely online business. “I just set up our page recently. You see, we are in the age of old fashion and things online are still very new to us, ”Chris admitted.
“At first, I was a little pessimistic and traditional with social media apps. But as I was educated, I realized that it was no longer a necessity, but a necessity.
Chris personally described his social media skills as “terrible and much to improve [on]”During our interview. For the past 14 years, in the operations of his restaurant up to his neck, it has been difficult for the employer to set aside time to keep up with changing online trends.
“But now we’re slowly getting there as we manage our own social media pages to keep up with the slang of the younger group and improve my photographic skills,” he hoped.
Because constant participation and posts are important for any e-commerce marketer to create an online presence, the couple says they spend a lot of time curating content. They have learned that posts can be as simple as food pictures or customer feedback screenshots.
Chris is also making an active effort to improve his social media skills. “I would first start to get acquainted with the use of story mode on Facebook and Instagram. I always find it so mysterious, “he said.
In addition to selling meals offered at CintaRia through Nichole’s Cakery Cafe, Nichole also cooks and sells cakes during festive events, such as her recent Father’s Day dessert.
Although his online sales have not grown exponentially so far as only a month has passed, Chris reported that revenue has been enough to cover some bills. The duo is now working in partnership with food markets to sell their special cakes.
As for the now defunct DJ CintaRia batch, Chris shared that it will be renewed in a bakery cafe once it is safe.
“It is clear that the change to digital is mandatory, as more and more people spend more time online. Ultimately, Nichole’s Cakery Cafe will also have to be strong in this area, ”Chris shared about his plan to achieve the brand’s success.
- You can find more information about Nichole’s Cakery Cafe here.
- You can read about more Malaysian companies here.
Featured Image Credit: Chris Chin, co-founder of CintaRia @ DJ