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Kuala Lumpur, Feb 10: On the road to achieving success, one must possess qualities like perseverance and determination while having to deal with groups of naysayers.
After receiving the Celebrity Entrepreneur of the Year award during the SME Entrepreneurship Business Award (SEBA) 2021, Datuk Fazley Yaakob expressed his surprise and gratitude for the prestigious recognition of his efforts during his ten-year journey in the entertainment and food industries.
It was not always glitz and glam for the 43-year-old for the Malaysian singer, celebrity chef, and entrepreneur. Fazley’s persistence has been further exhibited with the recent relocation of his current eatery Suka Sucré Bistro, proving his determination to escalate his brand to greater heights. His ups and downs in the industry from his dessert collaboration with Starbucks to closing down one of his restaurant chains, made him realise that success does not come easy.
An inspiration to many, especially to young food entrepreneurs, Fazley has become an example for them to build their business and bring in profits, which is crucial in current times of uncertainty. With a futuristic mindset, he has big plans for his F&B chains to counteract the pandemic. In this exclusive interview with DailyStraits.com, Fazley spells out some of his business plans to us and whether or not there is another Suka Sucré Bistro on the cards. Without further ado let’s read the full interview below.
How did you teach yourself to cook so well, when you started your career as an entertainer?
My family had always been in the catering, bread-making, and F&B scene in general. We switched from small businesses to managing the banquet facilities of a large convention centre in the city centre for a decade before I started focusing on my entertainment career. Returning to the kitchen was something very familiar to me and I had great support from the people around me too. I come from a background of Negeri Sembilan and Indian mixed heritage and these two cultures are known for rich and flavourful foods. I learnt from both my late father and my mother and my grandmother as a child, specifically when we lived abroad and missed local food so much.
Tell us more about Suka Sucré Bistro and how you survived as a business during the pandemic?
I am privileged to have such a massive following on social media as someone from the local entertainment scene before running a food business. But this also means I am extra careful with what we serve and how we promote it. I must pay attention to my demographics and serve them well, pandemic or not. Pandemic times were especially difficult for food vendors and restaurant owners who focused on large gatherings and celebration menus like ours. People stayed home and also had to be frugal with their expenditure. We tweaked our menu and switched to delivery mode for our orders and it worked out well for us.
Why did you relocate Suka Sucré Bistro?
I used to live in Cheras and naturally, we had our establishment built nearby. It used to be at Taman Pertama, Cheras and it is now at 27 & 29 Jalan Sri Hartamas 7 in Kuala Lumpur. Our family has since moved and it was only a matter of time that we relocated somewhere nearby too. I want to be able to go back to my children within 10 minutes max from the restaurant and now I can.
From a business standpoint, I made this decision to be more present and to be able to supervise and manage the business more efficiently. We also wanted to appeal to a wider pool of customers.
What are your plans for Suka Sucré Bistro?
To be honest, I’d like to keep just this one outlet and expand on how our food is distributed. Would love to provide ready-to-eat options with partnering cafes.
In your opinion where do you see the F&B industry in Malaysia heading now that foreign workers are hard to come by?
There will be a saturation of home-based vendors and small-medium food vendors who are focused on takeaway or delivery-only concepts. This will encourage collaborations and mergers that will help revive the “dine-out” culture. We’re seeing that now between restaurants, bakers, and artisanal coffee brands.
What is your advice to hopefuls out there who would like to give their shot in the F&B industry while we are all still in a pandemic?
Always start small and be open to collaborating even when our visions are not met at the beginning. There’s always room for progress and change right till the moment when we can call it our own. Food is enjoyed up to three times a day for most people, we get many chances to fix this. So don’t be afraid to go slow. Not everything must start with a Big Bang.
Any plans to come up with bespoke food products which can be marketed at supermarkets and eventually go abroad?
I have championed the Negeri Sembilan flavours since I first started and that is the specific cuisine I aim to promote outside of Malaysia. I’ve prepared my Suka Sucre Bistro’s Lemak Cili Api and Rendang flavours to become part of Starbucks Malaysia menu and I’m only getting started now. I want more people to be open to accepting Negeri Sembilan cuisine as a mainstream taste profile and no longer just known as a kampung- nostalgic like cuisine.
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June Ramli is the editor of DailyStraits.com. To stay in touch with June, look her up on Twitter @junesairaramli