Business Advice for F&B Owners

Funding secured, return on investment calculated, business hours set, location confirmed, re-stocking schedule tendered. What’s next? Building the entire operation.


Having spoken to you enterprising first time business owners, I noticed a pattern, similarly expressed with the inexperienced. They like to micro-manage the construction process. First thing on their mind, cut the cost. While I agree that cost cutting is an essential tool, you can’t overdo it, you can’t trim a tree till it has no leaves and expect it to be healthy or bear fruit. You need to trim, with an expert’s advice on the tree, on the ways it can be maintained yet grow healthily. Same for your business. The keywords picked up were “unnecessary” and “expensive”, which were said over and over. Take a step back and look at the entire layout, calculate a rough budget, and check in with them on their expected budget, if they have looked for second opinions. You have to find out the basis of which the design is unnecessary or expensive.


Some of the new food operators I’ve met were looking to build franchise businesses, yet they really want to go lean on the design costs. Now for a successful franchise, you need a critical element in your business, known as emotional design. It comes in ways more than you think. It comes in the menu design, the packaging design, the waiting experience, the service design, the interaction of the business with the customer.

Study the famous hotpot chain from Hai Di Lao, how they make you want to keep coming back while they charge a higher price on their food and service.

First, the waiting experience. A wide array of games that eats away at your time. Star folding origami, they offer you a reward for completing a certain amount of stars and you have to turn them in at the counter to receive a discount voucher. A game that might take away half an hour of your time, and you would not even feel you waited, because you were doing something productive. That is an emotional design. They bow when they pour you a drink, serve food, take your bill. That makes you feel like the bigger person, makes you want to part with more money. Emotional design. Before your meal, they provide napkins, bibs, phone covers, snacks. You feel taken care of. Emotional design. They have a sauce bar where ingredients of complex sauces have been deconstructed into various pots, and if you look up, you will see a wide range of sauces you can use their ingredients to craft. It puts you in control, engages you, leaves you feeling like a chef. Emotional design. Imagine how they replicate this across all their outlets in the world and train their staff accordingly to provide the same service in unison. The consistent provision of good emotions ensure their customers return and continue to pay at that price point for your meal.

If you are a business owner, you definitely need a designer. If not an all-encompassing consultant, the very least you can do for yourself is engage an experienced interior designer. The very least you owe yourself and your business success, is to ensure your space is done up to be inviting, warm, practical for usage.

The build

Having managed several food and beverage construction projects, the number one factor is practicality. You have to get your services right. The biggest nightmare is trying to rectify your services while you’re in operation. That will hurt your operation and revenue in downtime.

Air-conditioning and exhaust

You have to make your customers feel comfortable. Staying cool is a concern due to the amount of heat generated from cooking. Your exhaust system should be sufficient for the expected amount of fumes generated. Your consultant would be able to advise on the strength of the supply and extraction of air.


Ensure that sufficient measures are taken to reduce disruption by designing your inlet fittings (dishwasher, taps, ice machine etc) with individual bib taps, so the plumbing can be fixed should any of them break down. Your supply should also have the correct pressure to enable simultaneous usage. Grease traps need to be installed in appropriate areas to maintain hygiene and proper discharge. Remember that f&b outlets need a separate basin for hand wash, aside from the food preparation sink.

Lighting and sound

Your establishment needs to be sufficiently lit to reduce accidents, allow visibility and enhance displays. Lighting can make or break a business. Managing the lighting between service areas and kitchen areas require some skill. You would like bright crisp daylight for the kitchen while warm lights enhance the mood and appetite of diners. The challenge is managing the transition in terms of reducing the spillage of daylight into your dining area. Have a small service counter opening between kitchen and dining area would do the trick. If you are having a dine in crowd, you can go for slow mood music. If you have alcohol, you can try jazz and upbeat tempos. If you serve fast food, you can also go for faster pace music, in Singapore, they broadcast radio channels. Remember that lighting and sound attracts crowds. If you would like your food to be shared online, have your tables provided with lighting to enhance photos.

Signage, display, menu, napkins

How to brand everything. From my earlier example of Hai Di Lao, they branded their service. For the tangibles, you can brand your napkins, menu and cutlery. Carefully using typography, you can push your brand across effectively. For signage and display, which are the first things people notice, need to be designed to fit your concept. You can go for warm lighting for a fine dining location, while using bright daylight to stand out, think LiHo bubble tea. Dynamic displays like Macdonald’s TV menu can portray high energy and bring out appetising food colours in digital as compared to CMYK for print with a back lit board. Materials used can also play a big part. A ‘twin-wall’ acrylic board in aluminium frame with print would differentiate significantly as compared to 3D acrylic cut out sign with backlit LEDs. Your visuals are branding, do not cut costs on these items.


Lastly, knowing how to maximize the space you have to enhance your concept, has to come from an experienced consultant. You would not expect a home renovation contractor to be able to deliver the project effectively. Being mindful of neighbouring outlets, adhering to safety standards, health and fire standards, effective maintenance access are the considerations you will need to have.

Comment if you think I missed out something!

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