Singapore's Formula 1 Night Race

The Formula One weekend is coming to a close here in Singapore.  There's always lots of buzz around this weekend; tons of people come to town, the hotels do a booming business, and there's performances, parties, and a general lively atmosphere around the track area.

It's exciting to see the Singapore skyline and city streets receive so much attention and there's no doubt that it generates tourist interest.  The government are big proponents of F1.

However, it's not so rosy for business.  I was looking at the past Formula 1 weekends and comparing it with this weekend.  In each case, the business dropped by over 50%.  People are reluctant to come into the city centre as there are lots of road closures resulting in traffic and confusion, and also a sense that things will be too crazy around here so it's better to stay away.

Anecdotes from others indicate that I'm not the only one who feels like business is hurt by F1.

Ah well, what to do?

Maybe Katy Perry will drop by for some sushi before she jets off.  I heard she was playing tonight.

Sushi and Japanese food delivery begins!

Ever since opening our branch at Marina Bay Link Mall I've wanted to do delivery.  However setting up an online ordering service coupled with the additional delivery staff proved difficult.  There were existing services that would do the delivery for us, but they took at least 30% of the sale and the implementation was somewhat clunky, so after previous experiences with them I decided to pass.

Finally we are able to start delivery!  Found a good, responsive partner in Hastify, so as of today we are now doing deliveries to folks in Marina Bay Financial Centre and once that's smooth we will expand to more buildings in Raffles Place (and then the world!!!).

Order online, get sushi delivered, and eat!

Order online, get sushi delivered, and eat!

Next time you're swamped in the office or don't feel like going out, simply go to
http://hastify.com/standing-sushi-bar/marina-bay
and we'll bring our Japanese food to you.  Sushi, sashimi, lunch sets, oh my! 

Beat the Clock at Marina Bay!

Recently an assistant / intern joined our team and it has been great having him help out on a myriad of tasks.  One of the things he came up with was the "Beat the Clock" promotion.  In order to stimulate a little appetite and drinking we have introduced this at our Marina Bay Link Mall branch.  So if you're hankering for some sake, beer, and snacks in the Raffles Place area, come down to Standing Sushi Bar Marina Bay Link Mall!

Beat the Clock snack menu at Marina Bay Link Mall. Onigiri, sushi, temaki, salmon skin, and more!

Tuesday - Friday from 6 PM - 8 PM we are offering our snack menu + a glass of sake for a price of whatever time it is you order.  So if it's 7:15 PM then it's 7.15 SGD for a glass of sake and the snack!  Add 3 SGD to it for an Asahi beer or Heineken too!

My personal favorite is the kawa ebi.  Deep-fried shrimp which goes really well with beer.

Scheduled Facebook Posts

Recently Facebook added the “Schedule Posts” feature to Facebook Pages.  There have been other social media management tools that would allow you to do it, but now it’s a native Facebook feature so every page admin can use it.

It’s great; now I can line up content for the week… such as when I was in Hong Kong this past weekend the little Facebook bot was putting up posts related to the Night Festival on the Standing Sushi Bar page.

It frees me from bookmarking information that I want to share later; in the past I would take a clip of information and put it in OneNote and hopefully remember that I wanted to post it on a specific date or time.  It was a manual, kludgy process.

Now if I find something interesting I can put it into Facebook immediately and have it publish later.  The feature also makes it easier to create a series of posts as part of a campaign or event.

So yay Facebook for adding it!

One thing that isn’t immediately apparent – you might want to view or edit which posts are scheduled for publishing.  To do that you go to the top of your Facebook page, where the Admin panel is, and click “Edit Page.”  It shows a dropdown with “Use Activity Log” as one of the choices.  Click that and it lists what posts are upcoming.

Scheduled post on Standing Sushi Bar page

Night Owl Sushi

I was out of town this weekend in Hong Kong so was sad to miss the first weekend of Singapore's Night Festival 2012.  Thankfully it will happen again on August 31 and September 1 so I'll get a chance to see all the exhibits.

Since the museum asked the restaurants to stay open until 2 AM, I thought it would be fun to try out a new menu item - the Night Owl sushi roll that contained Red Bull as its base ingredient.  I think it's the first-time anyone has made sushi with Red Bull... well, I couldn't find any other mention of it on the internet!

Over the past two days we had over thirty orders for the Night Owl sushi.  Looks like people are willing to give Red Bull-based food products a try!

We'll be running the same promotions again this coming weekend so if you're curious, come in for a visit!

Taipei Scouting

I’m sitting on a flight to Taipei while writing this after a sleepless night spent upgrading my laptop to Windows 8.  I guess there’s enough of a computer geek left in me that I felt compelled to install the latest operating system on my computer even though I knew it would likely cause a few issues that would keep me awake.  After all, one shouldn’t mess with the computer they’re about to take on a trip.  But yes, here I am typing happily (and tiredly) away on a PC running Windows 8 (the full version) and Office 2013 Preview.  I feel like standing up on the plane and announcing to people this momentous achievement yet I doubt anyone else will care.

Anyway, I’m off to Taiwan again and am looking forward to trying out a couple restaurants.  Whatever city I go to, I make it a point to check out what’s happening in the Japanese restaurant or raw bar scene.  In Taipei the Mitsui group (some big Japanese restaurant conglomerate) has transformed a fish market into something quite cool – it’s still a fish market for wholesalers but scattered amidst the market are various food stalls, including a raw bar and what looks to be an upscale standing sushi bar!  The restaurant is called Addiction Aquatic Development.  Taipei Times has a review of it.

(Now that I've landed and found internet connection, here are a few photos from when I went to the restaurant this afternoon - it was packed for 4:30 PM on a Sunday!  Guess the Taiwanese have no issues with standing and eating.  It makes me want to toss out all the chairs over at Marina Bay).

I’ve been on a raw oyster kick lately and after typing in the words “Taipei Oyster Bar” to Google, I didn’t get that many results back.  The main one seems to mention a place called, straightforwardly, Oyster Bar, located at the fancy schmancy Bella Vitta mall in the Xinyi area (near Taipei 101).  It seems like the restaurant is part of the food court, which is kind of an interesting place to be serving raw oysters.  Hopefully I won’t be too worn down from the flight and will navigate my way through the subway system to city hall station and find this oyster bar.

I wonder if suppliers are able to bring in oysters more easily (or at cheaper prices) to Taiwan than they are to Singapore.

Looks like I'm not the only one...

Human nature has one feeling better when one knows that other people are going through the same problems.  The Straits Times has been running a few articles about the difficulty in finding locals to work jobs in F&B.

Excerpt from the Straits Times article on August 18, 2012:

"...we are bringing in a substantial investment from outside Singapore to create three food and beverage concepts that will, in time, be distributed around the world. However, we are going to have to rethink this plan because there is a serious manpower crunch in Singapore. Manpower within this industry has always been an issue but it is certainly getting worse rather than better.

I would love to hire many Singaporeans to work in my businesses - that is, if they turn up. When advertisements are answered and interviews scheduled, the Singaporeans who put up their names for jobs do not reply. If they do reply and an interview is scheduled, they do not turn up.

If they do start work, chances are high that they will get a medical certificate and in a short time quit in search of the next best thing.

We have 17 positions available at our first restaurant which is scheduled to open in three weeks. At present, we have only three Singaporean full-time employees. The new ruling on foreign workers quota does not allow us to employ the many qualified foreigners available to do the job.

Wherever the Singaporeans looking for these jobs are, we need them to step forward now. How can we complain about service standards when there is no standard to begin with?

Lara Jay Hequet"

Visit the Museum!

It's time to get a little culture!  The powers-that-be running the museums in Singapore have provided free entry to Singapore citizens and permanent residents during the month of August.  On certain days (August 24, 25, 31, and September 1) admission is free for everyone including tourists!

On those special August 24, 25, 31, and September 1 dates, the Night Festival will be going on.  The museums (including the Singapore Art Museum wing at 8 Queen Street) will be open until 2 AM.  We don't want to miss out on the fun so Standing Sushi Bar at 8 Queen Street will also be open until that late hour!

As part of the celebration we will be offering a special menu as well as some fun deals on sake ($4 for a biiiiiiig big glass) and more!  We've also created a special "Night Owl" sushi which will definitely be one-of-a-kind.  We figure people staying up that late are definitely a little edgy so we've come up with a sushi roll that contains Red Bull.  Ready to power you through until morning!

Night Owl sushi roll.  Contains a few special ingredients as well as Red Bull.  Only available for a limited time at Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street

Night Watch exhibit (SAM at 8Q)

From past experience, the Night Festival brings out a ton of people, so reservations are recommended!  It's a great time, so get it on your calendar!

Late night ramblings

I can’t believe that Standing Sushi Bar is coming up to its 3 year anniversary.  Where has the time gone?  I can still remember the opening day jitters at OUB Centre.  When was that… back on August 19, 2009?  I was still a Microsoft employee back then with no idea what running a restaurant would entail.

Almost three years later I sit at my desk late at night with a whisky in hand and I think… “Damn, I thought this was going to be easier.”  And I laugh.

The business has lurched from crisis to crisis over and over again.  I have a feeling that anyone in business feels the same about their operation.  There are successes along the way but there’s only a few days of being able to take a breather before something happens to make you want to nip at that whisky bottle again.

At some point I’m going to have to write an anti-entrepreneur post.  You know how university commencement speakers like to make that joke, “Don’t leave!  Stay in school!”  It’s the same thing.  If you’re in a solid corporate job then let me yell out, “Enjoy it!  Heck, milk it!”  Trust me, the “stress” of building a PowerPoint deck because some Vice-President from the overseas headquarters is coming for a visit pales in comparison to figuring out where to find money to pay your staff (note – this was at the early stages of the restaurant, it’s stable now… just in case potential staff are reading this!!).

I like that word… lurched.  I think lots of people like to look back and say they had a plan, they had this map in their mind that took their business from point A to point B.  It reminds me of something I read once; how all super-successful people that get involved with charities think the answer to solving the issue (world hunger, lack of education, etc.) is related to whatever field their expertise is in.

I had a plan too, but that plan obviously didn’t go to… plan.  If it had these words would be written by a corporate communications person who reports to a PR manager who has to e-mail me for my opinions since I would be sipping a margarita while lying in a hammock swinging in the Maldives.  Okay, just kidding, I like writing on the blog.  I just figured that I’d have office staff by now, but I still can’t seem to justify it.

So yes, lurched.  Fumbled, bounced, crashed, whatever words you want to use.  And I don’t mean it in a bad way.  Some stuff works, lots of things don’t.  It’s like those racing video games where you can smack the car into the sides but ultimately you’re always going forward.

How do I hire staff?

I know, I know… I am always writing about staffing woes.  I’m sure the three readers of this blog are tired of reading about this topic, but I think it’s a reflection of what one of the biggest worries is when it comes to running a restaurant – you’ll always be worried about staffing.

Anyway, Standing Sushi Bar is expanding!  We’re heading to Orchard Road in late September and will be launching a new concept (so not called Standing Sushi Bar but something like xxxx by Standing Sushi Bar).  I’ll definitely be writing more about this later, but first… staffing!

Since I’m opening a new restaurant, I need to hire lots of people.  Service manager, chefs, service crew, bartenders, dishwasher, etc.  This is no easy task, and with the recent government changes, we are maxed out on our quota for foreigners.

I have put job ads out.  Current ones running are on JobStreet and Gumtree.  Certainly I will be putting more up in newspapers and other internet sites.  The JobStreet ad has been running since July 24 and the Gumtree ads I just put up this morning.

In each ad I state that the positions are for Singapore citizens and permanent residents only.

There have been 25 responses so far.  All are non-citizen and non-permanent resident foreigners from the Philippines and Myanmar.  There have been 0 responses from Singapore citizens or permanent residents.

This is what I state about pay and experience in the JobStreet ad:

“We pay based on experience, and we pay well to secure the right talent.
All levels are welcome!
Must be a Singapore citizen or permanent resident”

I also make it a requirement that the applicant speaks English fluently.  This might be limiting the people that apply.  I have no idea.

So, if you have any advice on how I can tweak my ad or how to find a Singapore citizen or permanent resident who would like to be part of this new concept, let me know!

I feel bad receiving CVs from all these foreigners, many who have great experience in F&B, but I can’t hire them.

GroupOn, Daily Deals, and evil restaurants

Recently I took on a writing gig with ZDNet, focusing on small business and technology.  I’m pretty excited about this as I love all things tech and since leaving Microsoft this gives me great reason to stay abreast of all technology news.  (I would have done that anyway but now I can justify the bazillion hours of surfing the net by saying it’s research).

My latest entry is about the 4 waves that have occurred with restaurants utilizing daily deal (GroupOn) sites and how the current wave of restaurants are exploiting the customers.  Beware buying any daily deal for a restaurant!

GroupOn can mean bad reviews – how the current crop of restaurants lie, cheat, and steal from their customers

Have a read!

Hiring and Staffing Woes

The number one issue that causes the most frustration has to be staffing… particularly when it comes to hiring.  If this were Indonesia there would be no problem, I guess with a population that size there are always people willing and happy to work.

In Singapore, hiring is a constant challenge.  Here’s a glimpse into some of the staffing issues that crop up in the F&B line.  For those of you thinking of opening a place, get ready for this.

The No-Show

In the past 2 weeks I’ve had 3 people apply for a job, request for an interview, and then not show up at the appointed time.  After 15 minutes I will try to call and message them to see if they are still coming.  Most don’t answer the phone or respond.

Today I had an interview scheduled at 4 PM with a 21 year old guy.  He didn’t send a CV but only 3 glamor photos of himself, his name, contact, and “Experiences:F&B.” (What a summary).

Daniel Tan - Copy

4:20 PM rolled around, he wasn’t there.  I tried calling him and he didn’t answer.  I sent him a text message: “Hi <xxxxxx>, were you supposed to be coming for an interview at Standing Sushi Bar?”

He responded with one word: “Busy”

The Rotten Apple

Hired a kitchen chef as we were (perpetually) short-staffed at Queen Street.  He was on payroll for a total of 10 days.  Within those 10 days he took 2 days of MC and 1 day of sudden unpaid leave.  He also fought with every staff member while there insisting that the processes and ways of cooking in the kitchen were wrong.  So he basically just stood in the corner and complained.  Yet simultaneously asked the staff, “Do you like me? Do you think I’m not good enough?”  Culminating in the staff telling him, “Please just try doing the job.”  He responded with, “Your boss won’t fire me because he needs the quota.”  The following day he didn’t show up for work and didn’t answer any phone calls.  I fired him.

The Poacher

Trying to hire staff is so difficult that other restaurants and employment agencies are resorting to poaching employees.  If you want to try to poach a person, please do it with some type of honor – that is don’t come into my restaurant or use up my business’s resources trying to steal staff.  There has been a lady (named April) calling daily for the past few days and asking my staff to quit and join her.  She even calls during the lunch rush when obviously it is going to impact my flow of business.  April, please do not call the restaurant again or I will be letting the other restaurant owners in Singapore know about you and who you represent.

Mother’s Day!

Hello to all the mothers out there and an even bigger hello to all the children that want to please their mothers!

For you all that are still wondering what kind of treat you can give your mother, how about a meal at Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street?  We have a special Mother’s Day set available for 35 SGD… and don’t worry if you can’t make it on Sunday, it will be available from May 13 – May 20 so you have a week to celebrate with your mother!

Standing Sushi Bar Mothers Day Set Meal Singapore

Mother’s Day Meal ($35) includes

  • Tempura Moriawase (assorted battered prawns and vegetables deep-fried)
  • Gindara Mentai (Grilled cod with lightly spicy cod roe)
  • Beef Carpaccio (seared beef)
  • Daikon Salad
  • Ice Cream
  • Rice
  • Miso Soup

Book online for 8 Queen Street or call 6333 1335 to reserve a space!

Omakase at 8 Queen Street!

Frequently after looking at a restaurant menu, I think, “Well, a bunch of the stuff looks good but I don’t really know what to pick.”  However I don’t to take the effort of narrowing down exactly what I’m going to eat.

And that’s where Omakase (chef’s choice!) comes in.

Omakase Standing Sushi Bar Singapore

You essentially leave it up to the chef to select what you’re going to eat.

At Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street we are introducing a basic omakase for 29 SGD.  It comes with 6 selections as well as rice, salad, and miso soup.  The chefs will be changing this on a weekly basis so the picture above is just an illustration.  Expect fish from our sushi bar, some items from our robatayaki counter, and then offerings from our kitchen.

Next time, leave it up to the chef!  Book a seat by calling 6333 1335 or reserving online.

May Update

Hello everyone!  It’s been awhile since I’ve written about what is going on with Standing Sushi Bar.  Aside from the entries about various promotions and menus that we are trying out I feel like I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about the other things that are happening.  I suppose a big reason for this is, like any small business, when the owner gets busy certain things go on hiatus.

On the personal front I left my career of 14 years – I used to be a… I don’t know, community manager, platform evangelist, software tester for Microsoft and now I’m focused on building my own business.  I thought there would be a month of having a good break but surprisingly opportunities came a-knocking and I’m working on a few different projects.  One of the hardest things is to focus!  Too many ideas, too little discipline to handle them all, and too many video games still to be played.

Indonesia

The first branch in Indonesia (Standing Sushi Bar at La Piazza) opened on January 15.  We’re in the midst of finding a location for the second branch.  Exciting!  It’s crazy to think of simply how much larger Indonesia (and Jakarta) is compared to the tiny confine of Singapore.  Certainly a prime location in Jakarta would be awesome but there are so many cities that are underserved by Japanese restaurants that the potential is great.  Factor in significantly lower costs for rent, wages, and setup and you can see why so many businesses are trying to move into the country.

nueve-ssb-25
Look ma! So much space at Standing Sushi Bar La Piazza!

Singapore

I don’t know whether I can credit our Monday promotion, feng shui, or some random thing I did on the internet (bookings through Chope? Loyalty built through Perx?)  but it’s as if folks have started stumbling into the 8 Queen Street restaurant.  Business is up significantly (I hope this doesn’t jinx anything!) so that’s definitely great, especially after a hard 2011.

Maybe it’s cause I yelled at the air-conditioning people and finally got them to fix it?  Hmm.

Over at Standing Sushi Bar Marina Bay Link Mall things have been chugging along nicely.  We introduced new dinner sets and that has helped bring in more customers outside of the Raffles Place lunch hour crowd.  I’ve been working on trying to get delivery started but it has been much harder than expected.  Short of building a web ordering platform from the ground up, most of the solutions out there are tailored for the US market.  There’s lots of room for growth over there (read: anything outside of lunch hours) and I’m excited about the upcoming opening of Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3… since it will bring in a ton of DBS Bank employees and it will be the biggest office tower in Singapore.  On the flip side it is also going to bring in more competition with something like 11+ new restaurants, including a food court.

Expansion

Grow, grow, grow!  I’m looking for new spaces to open Standing Sushi Bar in Singapore (and if anyone wants to talk about other countries, I’m open to it!).  I was keen on the upcoming UE Biz Hub but not keen enough to sign at the rent they wanted. I’m hesitant about the amount of office crowd at Changi Business Park that is willing to spend on lunch at a price point above $8.  With the opening of the Changi City Point mall and the upcoming UE Biz Hub, I feel like there will be a glut of restaurants all competing for the same type of customer… which is fine for an area like Raffles Place but possibly not for Changi Business Park.  It will be interesting to see how these malls evolve.

New Concept

In a “spin-off” to Standing Sushi Bar (can you spin a restaurant off like a sitcom?) I’ve been working on a new food concept.  I’ve almost settled on the first location for it, but since discussions with realtors and landlords can change at the drop of a hat, I can’t y where yet.  I’m excited but also nervous about how fast this one is moving along.

May should be an interesting month!

Tea Set at Marina Bay Link Mall

Raffles Place has a lot of quirks when it comes to having a restaurant there.  From 12 PM – 1:30 PM it’s a sea of people… literally foaming at the mouth, flowing through the hallway and flooding the restaurants in the area.  After 1:30 PM the people quickly recede back to their offices and it’s a slow drip until 6:00 PM when people start dropping in for dinner.

Since it’s the business district, people need tea breaks and places to hold chats; I figured we should offer a tea time special for the Raffles Place crowd that is looking for something different from the coffee and cakes.

Onigiri

3 Course Japanese Tea Set at Standing Sushi Bar Marina Bay Link Mall

Course 1 - Choice of: Salmon Skin Salad or Kani Avocado Salad
Course 2 - Choice of: Salmon Onigiri or Ebi Fry Handroll
Course 3 – Choice of: Furikake Onigiri or Salmon Skin Handroll

Price: 6 SGD
Available from 3 PM – 6 PM on weekdays

Facebook Tips for Brands & Businesses

Justin Lee has written a good list of tips for brands and businesses that want to improve their management of a Facebook page.

Tip #3 about adding milestones to the page is kind of interesting.  I feel like people are engaging frequently with businesses in a manner that is more conversational and buddy-buddy rather than viewing a business as something that is just there to provide a product or service.  Adding milestones to a business’s Facebook timeline starts creating a shared history between the business and individual.

Back in time

Facebook is switching every company’s page to the “Timeline” version that it applies to individuals.  I’m actually a big fan of Timeline so I don’t mind the change that is coming.  I know there are many folks that have not taken to the Timeline view.  I wonder if it will somehow change the interaction between a business and Facebook users; I think Timeline’s design makes people want to share and engage more.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at the preview of Standing Sushi Bar’s timeline, and I flashed back to when we first opened.  Our manager (and my good friend) Coral posted this:

“Opening willl be fantastical! with dancing beauty queens and chefs that speak swiss german! Please if you must bring your children know that we do not have anywhere to put them.”

Standing Sushi Bar Japanese Restaurant in Singapore

Standing Sushi Bar at Raffles Place

I kind of miss that small spot!  I definitely don’t miss the rent.

Pinterest for the restaurant

I’m back from a week in New Zealand and unsurprisingly the jet lag is wreaking havoc with my sleeping patterns.  I’ve been seeing a lot of updates from Pinterest recently so I figured insomnia is the perfect reason to go explore another one of these social media internet 9.0 communication enhancer people connector type of tools.  And I must say, it’s kind of fun!

Standing Sushi Bar Pinterest

Basically you create a  board (imagine a corkboard) and when you find an interesting photo you “pin” it to your board along with a comment.  It’s an easy way of sharing. When you see other people’s pins you can “re-pin” their pin to your own board.  It’s like re-tweeting someone’s message except this time it’s a picture.

Follow Me on Pinterest

It will be interesting to see how businesses utilize Pinterest.  Still too early to determine whether there will be staying power or if it will just be another fad.  The way I’m planning on using it for Standing Sushi Bar is to showcase restaurant information (food, promotions, etc.) as well as have people learn what our “spirit” is based on the things that I pin.

Valentine’s Day Set Dinner

February 14 is just around the corner and that means love is in the air.  Cue romantic music and visions of roses, rings, and magical red hearts.  Not surprising that all of our reservations on Valentine’s night are for groups of 2.  With that in mind, we are offering a special Valentine’s Day meal at Standing Sushi Bar 8 Queen Street and another set menu at Standing Sushi Bar Marina Bay Link Mall.

Book a table by calling +65 6333 1335 (8 Queen Street), +65 6634 7068 (Marina Bay) or mail eat@standingsushibar.com

12.09 IMG_9795-Dobin-Mushi (2)

8 Queen Street - VALENTINE’S DAY “COUPLE’S SET” - $88 per couple

Appetizer

Three types of Japanese appetizers for each of you

Sashimi

Marbled, colorful raw fish… assorted slices of yellowtail, tuna and salmon sashimi along with creamy uni

Main Course

Gindara Ohba Yaki – two servings of grilled cod seasoned with Japanese ohba leaf, adding a lively mint flavor

Robatayaki

Two sticks of skewered beef with enoki mushrooms
Two sticks of grilled chicken wings

Soup

Dobin Mushi – Japanese teapot seafood soup for two

Sushi

Six pieces of sushi including shiro maguro, ikura gunkan, and akagai

Dessert

Three kinds of ice cream served with waffle

Marina Bay Link Mall – Valentine’s Menu (98 SGD per couple)

Mix Salad

Appetizers
2 kinds of Japanese appetizers to get the appetite working!

Sashimi
Assorted sashimi (4 kinds, 8 pieces)

Maki
Special Valentine’s Day sushi roll

Main Course
Wagyu Beef Steak
Salmon Butteryaki

Chawan Mushi
2 chawan mushi

Kake Udon
2 udon noodle soup to cleanse the palate

Dessert
2 kinds of ice cream