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What do YOU do to grow your business?

There was a recent article in the Vulcan Post about two siblings below the age of 25 who started a healthy meal company called Tandem Collective, serving a Hawaiian dish called poke (pronounced poh-kay). It is similar to the Japanese dish chirashi-don, although to me it looks more like our local delight, rojak. I suppose one person's poke is another person's rojak. The testament to Tandem's success is the long queues outside their outlet even before opening time, and during lunch. This was later followed up with an invitation by Esplanade to open another outlet there, but they had to serve alcohol, something anathema to the "healthy eating" concept of their first outlet. But seeing the opportunity to open up a less-than-healthy outlet, they set up an alter-ego with their current outlet, creating a contrast to their main brand. Again, this has proven to be a hit.

In the highly competitive F&B industry, how does Tandem remain viable and stay ahead of the competition? Here are three key contributors for their success; perhaps you too could take a leaf from them and create a similar success?

(1) strong business operations

It helps that one of the siblings was previously a food critic as well as a part-time chef in the US. This helped him get a good view of how things are done. Having seen it from a customers' point of view, when the table is now turned on him, he is able to come up with superlative operations, from taking orders, turning tables, planning menus, sourcing quality ingredients, and managing the supply chain. There are many different aspects of the business that one needs to be accustomed to, and if the operation is not tight, then there many loose ends that leave money on the table. If too much money is left, you would be running a losing business. And that will come back and hit you quite badly, especially in such a razor-thin margin business as F&B. So even before you sell your first plate, make sure youhave a rock-solid business process. Test, retest, and refine. The sweat you pay upfront will pay dividends in the end.

(2) branding

Your brand is a promise of standards and quality. It tells people that the money they put down for your product or service will be well rewarded. Hence if you did not have quality business operations, and you don't use quality ingredients, and you don't have high customer service standards, you will destroy your brand very quickly; and that will spell disaster for your fledgling business. Start from Day One to provide the highest quality service that you can provide and build on that as you grow. Consistency is the key to building your brand, but it has to be of consistently high quality. But quality is not cheap, and you cannot promise a quality that you cannot deliver. Nor should you. The experience you get when you dine at Les Amis will certainly be different from when you dine at Ashton. But this is not to say that Ashton does not have its own brand. It will connote a different experience than Les Amis. Hence, when you brand, you must know who are branding it for. The target market for Ashton demands a type of experience that the target for Les Amis does not want. By identifying who your customers are, what they want, how much they are willing to pay for services, you can create a right brand which will speak volumes for you.

(3) marketing

The last thing which Tandem shared that contributed to their success was marketing. The other sibling happened to be an award-winning marketer, having clinched 11 awards at a media company. She was even approached to join Google's content team. With a deep understanding and experience of online and offline marketing, Tandem created the brand even before it was launched. By running a teaser campaign before it was launched, the brand received a lot of eyeballs before it was available, and that made the launch successful; a success that they have continued to enjoy. And what makes a successful campaign? It boils down again to understanding your target market, what they want, and giving it to them in a new and novel way. Is it easy? Not all that; although it is not too difficult. I suppose it requires the confluence of knowledge and skills to pull it off. Tandem has been fortunately they have that, what about you?

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