Tag Archives: Business

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.

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.

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.

Jaya Grocer is opening on 30th January

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Jaya Grocer

Jaya Grocer is about to open in a couple of days time on the 30th January 2016. Hurrah! Have to go find out what range of items they stock there one day. At the moment all supermarkets are full of people stocking up for Chinese New Year, so definitely won’t be going there on their opening day.

Updated 31/1/2016:
And so we went on the second day, on a Sunday 🙂 It was difficult to find a parking space in Ipoh Parade. Anyway it is a well lit well arranged supermarket, probably typical of Jaya Grocer. But not overly impressed with the range of products on the shelves. Bought ourselves some vegetarian sausages and burgers, and yam which is apparently very cheap at RM6.50 a kilo.

Jaya Grocer
Jaya Grocer

Jaya Grocer opening in Ipoh Parade

Jaya Grocer
Found out that Jaya Grocer is opening a shop in Ipoh Parade. Hurrah! Delighted because there are food products that we like but cannot be found in AEON or Tesco in Ipoh. There used to be a Cold Storage where Jaya Grocer is going to be, in the old wing, basement of Ipoh Parade. But it has packed up many years ago. Think Giant has tried their luck there too to no avail. Presumably because Ipoh Parade is not convenient for shoppers like housewives, to get there in the first place, or to unload their shopping. And parking is relatively expensive nowadays at Ipoh Parade, compared to old times. Competition is getting more fierce, from new AEON and Tesco outlets, offering free to cheaper parking.

Nevertheless I hope Jaya Grocer can survive, so we don’t have to buy some of our food products, mainly imported, only when we are in KL or Penang 🙂 This cause is worth supporting LOL.

http://www.ipoh.parade.com.my/directory.php

Chatime De Garden moving to AEON Big Falim

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Chatime De Garden

Saw the above notice when on my way to change my wife’s and my mobile phone plans at DiGi De Garden. Not going to miss it since I seldom drink their expensive milk tea anyway. Heard that their first Chatime in Ipoh, located at Greentown, opposite Subway, has closed too. So all the Chatime outlets in Ipoh can now only be found in shopping malls. Milk tea or drinks business is more profitable in shopping malls then I guess?

Ben’s Burger has closed shop in Ipoh Parade

Haven’t eaten at Ben’s Burger before. It was very visible from the road and located next to one of the main entrances to Ipoh Parade (opposite of Sam Tet secondary school).

image

Drove past it about a week ago, and it looked rather dim from the outside. Suspected that it is no longer in business. Happened to be in Ipoh Parade yesterday. Took the effort to walk over there just to confirm (there is actually no entrance to Ben’s Burger from Ipoh Parade). Saw a few Snow Mountain workers outside. They were there to take an extractor fan away.

So Ben’s Burger is indeed closed. Tables, chairs and other bits and pieces are still there. From what I heard, it was closed about a month ago. Ben and Lynette however is still in business, located on ground floor, inside Ipoh Parade. BTW both of them belong to the same company, The Secret Garden (TSG) group. The take up of vacated lot in Ipoh Parade seems rather quick, as there is already a banner outside Ben’s Burger indicating an ice cream shop, it seems, is going to take up the space. Better than any of the AEON it seems.

Public Bank SecureSign device how-to

Finally got our SecureSign device from Public Bank for online business e-banking. Looks similar to HSBC’s security token:
SecureSign PBB
However the way it is used is very different from HSBC’s. There are two stages in carrying out an online transaction. The logic behind is there may be more than one person who can access the business bank account (logging into the account does not require the SecureSign device). But not all of them have the authority to carry out online transactions. So the first stage involves creating transactions, e.g. to pay for utility bills. Subsequently, the person with SecureSign device will approve these transactions, presumably one by one (haven’t tried this out yet).

In the first stage, I made payment in a similar way to how I was accustomed to. But when I was expecting to key in a secure code from the SecureSign device before I confirm a transaction, I managed to confirm without one. But the transaction was then put under “Pending” status.

In the second stage, I needed to click on the “Transaction Approval” tab to proceed:
Transaction_Approval_PBB
On the left hand column, there were “Maker Transaction Status” and “Authorizer Transaction Status”. I could view pending transaction under “Maker Transaction Status” or “Authorizer Transaction Status”. To authorise transactions, I needed to click on “Authorizer Transaction Status”, followed by “Approve/Reject Transaction”. There I was required to search for the transaction to approve, which in my case was just one pending. Here came the unintuitive bit, after clicking on the transaction that I wanted to approve. I was required to key in the secure code. The secure code was to be generated from the SecureSign device. However it wasn’t entirely clear from the Quick Guide that came with the SecureSign device how it could be generated:
SecureSign Quick Guide

First, I keyed in the PIN number into the SecureSign device when prompted. Then I pressed the “1” or “Sign” button on the device, before keying in the first set of data. This first set of data was actually the first line of numbers on-screen in red. After keying in the numbers followed by “OK” on the device, I keyed in the second line of numbers in red (it was the amount figure, but remember to omit the decimal dot) followed by “OK”. Then only the secure code appeared, which I entered on-screen to approve the transaction.

Now do you understand how the SecureSign device facilitates online business transactions for Public Bank?

Updated on 4/12/2015:
Just found out today that if your pending transaction is not authorised within 7 days, the transaction will vanish by itself. Yes, vanish, because it will not show up anywhere, even if you try to search for it. It is not rejected nor deleted. It will disappear from you, or even the Public Bank staff. Initially I thought I can just keep creating transactions, let them stay pending, until I authorise them at a later date closer to actual payment due date for my bills. The reason I did that because Public Bank do not allow transactions to executed on a future date. Absolutely rubbish. Maybank can do that. And how difficult can it be to keep a record of expired (pending) transactions, so that I don’t have to dig out transaction details again to make the payment. Basically their commercial online payment system is just not very well thought out to me. It is appropriate to describe it as rubbish.

Updated on 1/2/2016:
If you damage the device, it will cost you RM50 (plus GST) to replace. Don’t put it in your pocket, especially if your jeans is tight, like mine, with lots of things inside too, as mine cracked. Replacement does not take long, I got mine replaced in 2-3 days time.

Updated on 16/6/2017:


One and a half year since I wrote this how-to and their online portal is still showing up such amateurish message.. Basically this shows up when there is no more transaction to approve or reject when I clicked on “Approve/Reject Transaction”. It is NOT an error if there is no transaction to show here! Before this online portal goes live Public Bank should have inspected it thoroughly, every permutations, to weed out all the loose ends. Users are not interested in software error messages copied straight from the backend. Very poor, embarrassing actually, considering that Public Bank is the second largest bank in Malaysia.