A couple who founded an artisanal food outlet, P.Bistro, shares experience.
There has always been a sort of stigma attached to businesses run by couples: that these are bound to fail sooner or later as having their love life around all the time might make it difficult for their ventures to stay afloat. A couple who started a gourmet restaurant at Owen Road, however, wants to prove that co-partnership actually strengthens both their romance and business.
P. Bistro, was opened in late Dec 2013 by husband and wife Pang Tuck Wing and Tan Min Yee. Tuck Wing, 48, is an accountant by training, and have worked in the corporate finance field. After a health scare back in 2012, he decided to quit the profession and wanted to spend more time with his family, most especially with his wife.
Min Yee, 39, meanwhile, has always been in the culinary business. She is known for her exceptional baking skills, and her indefatigable drive towards making artisanal food and pastries. She began her culinary career at Singapore’s Shatec Institutes and moved to France after a year in Shatec to improve on her skills in creating gourmet French pastries and food. Min Yee came back to Singapore in 2011 having attended two of the world’s top culinary schools, Ecole LeNôtre and Le Cordon Bleu, where she earned her Master certification and Le Grand Diplôme. She was soon known for creating simple enjoyable artisanal pastries.
Tuck Wing believes that as more and more people in Singapore become well-travelled, their palates are also becoming more sophisticated and they start preferring gourmet over fast food. Hence, the birth of P. Bistro which is aimed at catering to a market of people who are looking to find artisanal food outlets rather than commercial fast food chains.
“My wife, Min Yee and I had always been talking about starting our own F&B operation, sharing the food we have been passionate about to discerning consumers who are particular about the food ingredients used and techniques in cooking, right down to the bistro setting and ambience. We believe a larger part of the population in Singapore is getting more health conscious, being exposed to more information on nutrition and wellness,” says Tuck Wing.
At P. Bistro, they want to keep everything as simple and basic so people can relate to them comfortably. Tuck Wing says that “P” in P.Bistro is kept short for instance, as it refers to their family surname and yet it holds the meaning of “pâtisserie” to Min Yee as it is her passion to make cakes and bakes. “My wife loves baking and how we started this bistro originates from a love that has been shared in the family. Hence, we want to keep it simple, inviting our customers to our place for simple, good food done decently and passionately. We cannot emphasise enough on the good quality of ingredients used – from fresh chickens to quality beef steaks, fresh lemons, French cream, premium Danish butter, Maldon sea salt…and the list goes on,“ says Tuck Wing.
Currently, P. Bistro have conservatively covered a range of pasta dishes, roast chicken, steaks, fish and chips on top of some light bites, mushroom soup and salads. However, Tuck Wing shares that they are expanding their menu to include more Asian delights such as noodles and fried rice as they realise that more and more people, not just local Singaporeans, but also foreign expats living here, are considering these foods as their staples.
“We want to be more cosmopolitan embracing what people enjoy for their dining experience, in a more global sense. We are doing this as we realised most of our customers come in groups and amongst them, there could be some vegetarians, some older folks who prefer local delights but they came anyway because they want to join their children in the gatherings. We understand some of their needs and there were many times our chef will whip up a local fried rice dish or noodles so everyone is happy dining here,” he says.
As to-date, Tuck Wing shares that they have already invested over a million dollars in their businesses. And as with other businesses, starting P.Bistro came with many challenges including scouting for good talents. Fortunately, they had convinced their friend Ma Cai Yi, who left his Grand Hyatt job to join them as their kitchen chef.
Some of the problems that the couple faced when starting the business and some still ongoing include challenges in hiring of good service staff and securing good supplies.
“With the labour control by MOM, we could only hire local staff when we first started. Singaporeans and PRs in the F&B service trade prefer to work in reputable set-ups and unwilling to take risks to join start-ups. We have tried several avenues on hiring but not many locals are interested to work in a long hours F&B career,” says Tuck Wing.
According to Tuck Wing, there is also no help from reputable institutes like Shatec as they prefer to send their interns and graduates to established hotels and restaurants. “Today, we are still hiring and thanks to our increasing popularity, we have attracted even people who have studied in Le Cordon Bleu and from other hotels. On service, we managed to hire an industry veteran, John Lim, who had worked as SIA inflight supervisor and a sommelier,” notes Tuck Wing.
As for securing good supplies, Tuck Wing admits that it was initially quite tough to get some of the premier suppliers to supply to them due to their low volume. They had approached their friends for help though all of them are not from the F&B trade. Thankfully, Singapore he says, is a small place where the social circle is small and over time, they were able to connect with the senior management of the suppliers and managed to convince them to supply to them.
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