In this instalment of Moving Forward with Venuerific, we speak to Lynn Tan, the Co-Founder of Eat At My Kitchen, a Private Dining & Event Space nestled in Dempsey Hill. Despite her years of experience in the Corporate world, both Lynn and her business partner, Janet, decided to get away from the 9 – 5 routine to pursue her passion in cooking and started this unique space at the start of 2020.
But no one would have expected the newly launched business to be hit by the aftermath of COVID-19. Launched right before the Circuit Breaker was implemented in Singapore, Eat At My Kitchen was forced to shut their business during the period. But rather than being having their entrepreneurial spirit dampened, the resilient duo took the opportunity to re-strategise their unique business model and managed to tide through the difficult period. Now, emerging stronger than ever, Lynn shares the story of Eat At My Kitchen with our Co-Founder, Cynthia.
You can also enjoy the full interview in video format:
Hi, Lynn. Tell us a little bit about yourself to the audience.
Hi Cynthia! I come from the Corporate world. I retired from the corporate world and decided to go into my passion for cooking. A little bit about me, I am not a professional cook and not trained as a chef. (However), I enjoy home cooking, cooking for friends and families and especially you know while I’m travelling, I love to eat. I eat all kinds of food and enjoy good food. So, when my friends suggested to me about when you go into retirement, you should open a restaurant.
What’s the concept of your dream restaurant?
So instead of opening a (traditional) restaurant I always tell them, I’ll do a one-table restaurant. They will eat what I cook and then I can mingle and make friends, which is, my passion.
So food, good food, cooking for friends, making friends, introducing to people what food is all about, you know what kind of food tastes good, is something that I love to do. Having good food is totally for the soul. People who doesn’t like to eat, or people who eat just to live, can’t be very close friends. For people who love to cook, and the family who loves the cooking, eating part of the whole lifestyle. (For these people), the kitchen is always the busiest, and that is why I named my place Eat At My Kitchen, so when you invite your friends over, they eat at your kitchen.
Credit: Eat At My Kitchen
Are there any other traits that make Eat At My Kitchen such a different space?
What is very unique about our model is that we only do private dining and meaning to say that whenever you need, you want to come for your lunch, you want to come for brunch, you book through (our channels). And any days when we get no bookings, we are closed. So we basically cook for the invited guests.
We put six tables in our 3000 square feet (space) so, you know especially for this moment during COVID where social distancing and things is important, it becomes a very comfortable space for people to dine here, our table (is) specially made 1.6 times 1.6 meters six-five people, you know, very very spacious.
Were there any like strong push factors that made you say, “No, I’m done with the Corporate world. I’m going to start my restaurant, now is the time”
And I had many years in the Corporate world and I enjoyed the corporate life for sure, you know, but I think enough is enough. So, when my partner and I decided, we (immediately) planned it last year.
So that was before COVID, but we opened in January, and (then) we were caught right smack (of Circuit Breaker). After we opened, we were going into a shutdown and things like that. So, well, what do we do when we have a shutdown right? And the business is just getting off the foot. So, to me, it was actually a blessing in disguise. Anything later, I would not have opened this restaurant, I would not have opened this place. Anything earlier, we may be already doing very well and then we go into a shutdown, which is also very painful.
Did you implement any changes during the Circuit Breaker?
We were caught in a stage where after we opened for one month, we got into a shutdown, (so) we did some deliveries. We did some, you know, fancy stuff, we got our customers to send gifts to their customers through our gift box of cakes, canapés and stuff like that. And, yeah, just grind it out for this period, I must say that to run a business definitely, you plan, you know, you do your numbers, you do your customer segmentation, who are your customers, your target audience and things like that. But, it is also very important that whenever we go on to a block, you know, hit a wall, you change your plan.
Originally we only wanted to do private dining for dinner and then do some events and that’s about it. Because of COVID and then also you know for restaurant business or F&B business you normally take one year before you can pick up customers, and I lost six months to COVID. So what do I do, then we got to start doing luncheons, we got to start doing brunch, you know, so our business plan had to change.
Did it get better after?
Subsequently with the easing a little bit on weddings on solemnisation and stuff like that, we decided that we need to go into an events platform and you know, Venuerific is a terrific platform that we go on to, where we get to let people know that there is an event space out here through your Venuerific platform. So somebody came to celebrate birthday and they wanted to do cooking, and then we just did a cooking class with them for 5 persons.
We were very lucky to have some very good customers. You know, word of mouth and repeat customers, people who come back. The feedback they gave about this place was, definitely the space is good, decor is nice, food is good. But it’s the small little things that we do to make them feel safe. Sometimes we even close up the whole place. For instance, when two tables are booked, we may just close the space. This is because as a private dining space, we are flexible to do what we think is good for our customers, so customer service is totally very important to us.
But was there a point where you thought no like “Maybe I wanna give up” you know, maybe. Did you ever once think of something like that during the period?
Honestly speaking, no. I can’t afford to give up. I think for all problems that we meet, there will be a solution. You know, so the good thing is to find solutions and see how we can further expand. Before we never talked about doing delivery, now we do delivery as and when the customer needs you know, although we are not into total delivery, but that is one platform that we are in.
We are on your platform, which will then show off more of the space. Hopefully as the time goes by where people do more events, this part of the business will grow.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out a business, what would it be?
Number one, plan ahead. Plan well. All the planning that you need to do, but more importantly is how you execute it. Right, the execution part of it is going to be very important, but also, to be flexible to make changes along the way. Resilience is one thing, but you know the resilient part of it is how to move forward. But moving forward, you’ve got to be very flexible and nimble to cope with the unforeseen future. So, to sum it up with three words will be: plan it well, execute it well, and be nimble.
Wow, that’s perfect! I think you just mentioned what our whole series is about, which is Moving Forward with entrepreneurs, founders and business owners, who are moving forward.
Showing that you’re doing it with resilience through these different ways. I think that serves as an inspiration to others. That is also our purpose for doing this series. So that others can learn from people like yourself.
So, I really want to appreciate you for coming on board this episode. I really hope the audience enjoyed listening to your story as much as I did. Thank you so much Lynn for coming onboard.
Cynthia, I am (also) thankful that Venuerific has picked Eat At My Kitchen to be featured. You’re doing a fantastic job getting your clients to gain more exposure. Hopefully, through the video series that you are doing, more people will get to know both, you both Venuerific and Eat At My Kitchen as well. Hope you’re here one day soon.
I certainly hope so too. Thank you so much Lynn for taking the time (to join us).
About Eat At My Kitchen
Eat At My Kitchen is a Private Dining & Event Space located in Dempsey Hill. This unique restaurant was born out of the co-founders, Lynn and Janet’s love for cooking and networking. Apart from dining in the cosy space, guests can also opt for unique cooking experience in their kitchen space. Click here to view more details and send inquiries to Eat At My Kitchen.
Venuerific lists more than 3,000 venues across Southeast Asia and provides an all-in-one Venue Management CRM Software for venue operators. The platform is also a pre-approved ICM vendor under IMDA SME GO digital programme in Singapore. This is a scheme that identifies Digital solutions to help SMEs to transform and optimise their productivity through the use of Digital technology. The scheme also allow businesses to get up to 98%* support fund through the Productivity Solutions Grant and Skillsfuture Enterprise Credit.
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