AEON Kinta City’s makeover

Now that we know that AEON Kinta City is not packing up as once feared, I’m sure the Ipoh folks are curious what is in the pipeline at the end of the current makeover effort.

Exterior wise apparently they want to bring the appearance of the shopping mall to be more inline with the rest of AEONs around the country. They are also adding awnings to the ground level shops/restaurants, presumably to provide a more appealing look and feel from the outside too?

Inside, this row of shops/F&B outlets are undergoing renovation.
F&B outlets AEON Kinta City
So like I said in one of my earlier post, the ground floor is going to be populated by F&B outlets. But it is not known what outlets will occupy them, apart from the existing names like Sushi King and Johny. And they will be ready in August, which is only 2 months away. I’m sceptical.

Following that, they will renovate the shop lots upstairs. There I really couldn’t care less, as I seldom buy things these days anyway. I do however genuinely hope some decent F&B outlets move in there.

Pitfalls in opening a cafe in Ipoh

Upmarket cafes were very hot in Ipoh for a while 2-3 years ago. Cafes mushroomed almost everywhere out of a sudden. Many were tastefully decorated, quaint looking, cosy, with everyone one of them seemingly trying to outdo one another. Some have “unique” selling points, like offering self made bread, pastry, high speed Internet connectivity etc. But the fever has died down a little lately, to me anyway. Here is an article that offered some insight into what it is like to run a cafe business in Ipoh.

Some of the business owners are fairly honest when asked about the challenges facing them when running their businesses in Ipoh. Some seemed to either just put on a brave face or they didn’t know where they failed, if I’m being honest. I’ll let you figure out who was or were talking rubbish. But I would agree on the following points for the Ipoh market:

  1. Competition from the popular white coffee, both taste and price
  2. Standalone coffee enjoyment without main meals not so popular here
  3. Appettite for western coffee is there, but market is not big enough to sustain so many cafes

I have no problem with the price points of their coffee. They are their premium offerings, and should rightly charged as they are. But I have a lot of issue with the price points of their other offerings, like desserts, light bites (sandwiches included) and even main meals! They are deluded, thinking that the Ipoh folks earn as much as those in KL and Penang. In fact if I go to KL, I get better (much better) value for money, on both coffee and food! Incredible isn’t it? But it is!

Basically, your business needs to survive and sustain in such competitive environment first, with so many cafes around, and price reasonably. Lower your cost and overhead, target the right audience and offer value to these customers. Ipoh folks always like good bargains, and they will come back to you if you offer them good value. Tourists business is good, but it is often one-off, and there are not that many tourists coming to Ipoh. Businesses in Ipoh need to first and foremost focus on the locals. Otherwise it will be the same old story. You have been warned.

MAPS postponed their opening date

Received a call from Movie Animation Park Studio (MAPS) that they have postponed their opening date to 1st December 2016. As a Perak Pass holder, I can go get my photo pass done from 1st July onwards. There is going to be a soft opening on 1st June, which I am not quite sure what you can do there from the phone conversation. As for single day tickets, the expiry date will be revised, so it won’t expire on the 30th September since they only open on the 1st December. But the customer rep couldn’t confirm when exactly is the expiry date though. So the opening date will coincide with year end school holiday. It will be interesting, the park is going to be packed with people. If the staff is not well drilled I can foresee that it is going to be chaotic there. Let’s see.

Massimo bread price increase from 4th April 2016

Just received a notice from The Italian Baker that they will be adjusting the prices of their bread from 4th April 2016 onwards. They have been absorbing the 6% GST since April last year when GST went live. There was confusion initially I think because they thought their bread are zero rated. Turned out that not all bread are zero rated.

So from 4th April onwards, a loaf of Massimo Sandwich with wheat germ will retail at RM2.65 (small) and RM3.70 (long), an increase of 15 cents and 20 cents respectively.

Massimo bread new prices

Can’t blame them, flour subsidies from the government have been cut lately too. Just more misery for the commoners…

Peugeot at De Garden has relocated

Peugeot De Garden
Peugeot at De Garden has relocated to Jalan Tun Razak, according to a small paper notice they placed on the entrance door of the shop there. Apparently they have moved already on the 1st March. No wonder there is no more Peugeot cars parking outside their shop anymore. This means many more parking spaces at De Garden, which is good 😉

Lately there were more and more car shops along the north end of Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. Mazda, Proton, followed by Peugeot, VW and Renault. Interestingly Peugeot decided to relocate after just a year and a half.

Business picking up again?

Our business just managed to beat the first week of March last year in terms of revenue. Business has not been great, starting from second half of last year, if we compare revenue year-on-year. But interestingly business seems to be picking up again in March.

Just heard from a supplier that Up & Up Restaurant in Ipoh Garden East is losing money. We have dined there twice, I think, within the first two or three months after they open business. They had a good crowd on both times we were there. But apparently business has slipped since. Their overhead is high, with lots of workers (over 20 of them?). Probably inevitable in restaurant business. It is difficult to gauge when you are going to have lots of hungry customers turned up on your door steps.

Anyway it is most important for our business to stay in the black, and maintain a healthy cash flow, at least until the economy turns the corner. If we can do just that then our business is definitely here to stay.

Another ultrasound scan, six years later

Read my blog post six years ago on the very first ultrasound scan of my baby. Wife had another few days ago on our second baby, six years later. I couldn’t remember that there were actually quite a few details there. My memory is certainly not getting any better by the day. It is a brilliant idea that I blog every now and then. I think I will enjoy reading it again when I’m older.

The foetus this time was actually only 5cm at two days shy of twelve weeks. Whereas the first one was 6.1cm at twelve-and-a-half weeks. In any case I was still fascinated by how fully formed the tiny foetus was. Again I was relief that the foetus looked healthy. Sense of deja vu, but only when I was reminded by my blog post LOL. We decided not to find out about the sex of our baby this time round. Should be fun :)

Something’s Brewing has closed shop

Something’s Brewing opposite Festival Walk
Saw on Facebook that this cafe has packed up shop after Chinese New Year, and the owner is trying to sell off various things in the shop, if not the business itself. Was initially interested in the coffee machine and the deep freezers. But I don’t suppose these are absolute necessities for our business at the moment so I would rather keep our cash. In difficult times like this cash is king. In fact I am thinking of raising some working capital for our business. But need to get our second year financial account audited and filed first. Without at least two years financial history the banks won’t look at our application.

Back to Something’s Brewing. It is a cafe that serves various types of tea, e.g. fruit tea. I haven’t been there before, but it is similar to the one in De Garden, Tea & Tattle. In fact Tea & Tattle is a result of a business partnership break up in Something’s Brewing some time ago. I’m not sure if I enjoy drinking such tea, as I’m more the traditional black tea with milk type of drinker. It is hard to tell whether Something’s Brewing would survive if there is not a Tea & Tattle that tries to compete for the same pie. It is a niche market, which is fine. But it does look like the market is so small that it can’t sustain both cafes. We’ll see if Tea & Tattle can survive in the long run. They do have a unique offering, I think, but customer base takes a long time to build. Unlike coffee drinking which is heavily marketed around the world, fruit tea is relatively unknown here. If you haven’t a big marketing budget then you can only build your market up organically. And you need to prepare yourself for competition. And that is not just from potentially new tea drinking cafes… It is a tough business. It really baffles me why so many entrepreneurs still try to get into the cafe business.

Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS)

Contrary to what I read in the media, the Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) located in Meru Ipoh will only open in July this year. There will be a carnival end of this February, but activities are limited at the entrance only.  

MAPS pre-opening offers
 At first it seems good value to buy the Perak Pass. But the thing is I’m not sure I’m going to bring my family there more than once a year. And RM180 per adult is still a lot of money. For a family of just three of us, it works out to be a whopping RM510! Besides, my daughter is not into movies or animations yet. 

The layout of the park looks like this:

Layout of MAPS
It didn’t strike me to be that big a park. Perhaps I expected it to be bigger. The river that separates the main entrance from the park perhaps has made the park looks small LOL.

After much considerations, I ended up buying only Day Passes for the three of us. RM280 is still a lot of money considering that I’m not very sure if there is an awful lot of activities for adults to do in the park. But since it is something new in Ipoh, I suppose we will need to pay a visit no matter what :)

Updated 27/2/2016: Wife and I ended up purchasing the Perak Pass as well, so that my brother’s and sister’s family, who are not Perak-born, could pay at the Perak Pass’s rate for their annual passes. It works like this, there is this Buy 3 Free 1 (family?) offer on Perak Pass where only Perak-born residents can buy. But you don’t need everyone paying for the pass to be Perak-born, which makes sense because within a family the husband or wife may not necessarily Perak-born. To take up this offer, you only need one of them to be Perak-born. Hence our roles in extending the offer to my brother’s and sister’s families, respectively, even though we didn’t initially want to buy the passes. And apparently you can add-on up to two more persons, which means that they can pay at the Perak Pass’s rate too. The day passes that we bought are now going their way, as we don’t intend to pay more than we already paid. When they come back to Ipoh, we will need to arrange to go to the theme park together to get the photo passes done (from March onwards), for each and everyone. It is cheating a little, but the MAPS’s people were not fussed, so why not.

Best creamy yogurt in Malaysia

Thick creamy yogurt
Thick creamy yogurt

We have been used to yogurt in the UK, thick and creamy, and spoilt with choices on the flavours available. But in Malaysia, at the time when we moved back, the choices of yogurt were very limited, and they didn’t taste anywhere as good as those available in the UK. At one point we have even thought about starting our own yogurt business in Malaysia LOL. But obviously it’s easier said than done and we have no experience in the food manufacturing industry. Anyway we have since found this brand of yogurt to be as good if not better than those we enjoyed back in the UK. It’s called Dairy Farmers. Very pleased with the yogurt. Give it a try. We have not looked back since. We used to buy Yoplait, but have since dished it. But mind you it is on the expensive side, about RM21 a tub (600g).

Updated 31/1/2016: Just found out that you can buy one at Jaya Grocer Ipoh Parade for “only” RM18. The cheapest we can find so far in Ipoh.
Updated 22/02/2016: Muller yogurt is the one we were used to in the UK, and it is now available in Jaya Grocer Ipoh Parade too, but at RM7.90 a pop!Muller Corner yogurt Think I will stick to the Dairy Farmers Thick & Creamy yogurt, the Muller yogurt tastes watery in comparison!LOL