If you’ve always wanted to start a restaurant for years, it might be time to sit down and draw up a plan to open your own business. While starting a restaurant is thrilling, it’s also time consuming and one of the toughest businesses to successfully launch. In fact, accordingly to Bloomberg, 60 percent of restaurants fail within the first year. We had a heart-to-heart with restaurateur, Liang about his business as a chef and part owner of WhupWhup and pick up a thing or two about what it takes to run an up-and-coming restaurant.
A former factory that once churned out industrial yarn, WhupWhup is now a reawakened cavernous café that whips out appealing comfort fare and coffee, founded by the diversely talented collaborators who include a firecracker of an erstwhile radio DJ, an ex-barista trainer and an arts instructor. WhupWhup is concealed deep in the depths of the Subang Jaya Industrial Estate with warehouses and factory as its neighbours. Some people can’t help but wonder who could possibly see potential in a place like this, but this trio did.
How It Started
Singer and DJ turned chef, Liang and his fiancée who is a part time art teacher Pojoo Sim along with their good friend, Levi Asher went against the grain to set up WhupWhup, seeing the immense possibility where others would probably have seen adversity and struggle. Liang (co-founder and chef at Whup Whup) wears many hats, he was so passionate to become an aspiring restaurateur that he underwent an intensive course at Le Cordon Bleu and earned his Diplome de Commis Cusinier. “To be successful, you’ll have to invest a lot of time and money – so make sure that starting a restaurant is your passion, not just a business venture you hope will make money” mentioned Liang.
The Look & Feel
The building WhupWhup is housed in screams the next big “hipster hangout” spot and Instagram aficionados will flock to this restaurant just for the countless backdrops and #vsco opportunities. Retaining the façade of the building, the interior has been transformed into a high-ceilinged beauty, reminiscent of a greenhouse. Potted plants and fresh flowers soften up the place and there is so much space between the tables, you could kick around a football if you wanted to. WhupWhup does have an anachronistic charm which makes it distinctive and a breath of fresh air.
WhupWhup’s team has imbued a playful, personal touch into everything from the mise-en-scene, like the leafy flourishes and the rustic piano in the background, to even the menu which promises complimentary water from The Fountain of Youth, choices of coffee with sobriquets like ‘Slim Shade’ and ‘Whitest Boy Alive’ – which happens to be a German-Norwegian indie musical group based in Berlin.
Glazed Lamb Shank
Food: The Concept & Preparation
Liang wanted to make everything he learnt a lot more obtainable to mainstream foodies, he believes that French cuisine can be very stiff and also intimidating, so he wanted to make it accessible to regulars. And to a certain extent, he has achieved that. The Glazed Lamb Shank is glorious, with a side of Ratatouille and Rosemary’s Taters. The lamb falls off the bone, so tender and oozing with flavor. The potatoes are aromatic and cooked beautifully, along with the ratatouille offers a gorgeous contrast of tastes and textures. As an owner of the restaurant, you can’t have an ego, according to Liang. If your idea of owning a restaurant is strutting around in a nice suit and asking customers what they think of the food, you’ll be in for a surprise. You have to be willing to take up any job, from chopping up vegetables to even seating customers and cooking under a lot of heat (literally), you’ll have to fill in a position almost every day.
Duck 3 Ways (Image: Eat Drink KL)
Their well-known Duck 3 Ways features a salted duck egg, duck breast and duck bacon with pasta. The duck meat is flavorful and rendered flawlessly. The dish is addictive and the medley of salted duck egg, duck bacon and pasta go together splendidly. One of our favourite picks would be the Nu Yolk, which is an appetizer which Liang is very fond of. He describes the pairing of scallops with salted egg yolk puree and parmesan as akin to having a pop-up lightbulb moment. The scallops are cooked perfectly and harmonise brilliantly with the salted egg puree, an orchestra of flavours and textures.
Image: Eat Drink KL
When it comes to breakfast meals, it is never easy to pull off a big breakfast that is outstanding because big breakfasts are stereotypically composed of all your classic western breakfast favourites and it is almost the most basic breakfast item in any café. WhupWhup jazzes up their big breakfast, namely the Whup Daddy and is served with egg of your choice, eying mushrooms, some pan seared tomatoes, and buttery toasted country bread. WhupWhup’s interpretation of Cuban sandwiches showcases a choice of chicken or beef with cheese, while the wine-marinated, slow-cooked beef stew with mash and vegetables is a solid bet for a substantial meal for an affordable price.
Overall, WhupWhup developed dishes that are very creative and contemporary, with tables arranged loosely to create sufficient space for comfy dining-loosely placed. Take your time to enjoy the ambiance as the space is very calming and impressive. You will eventually notice the hippie yet cheeky dish names and take note their beverages are equally fanciful and mischievous.
Tips & Tricks
Get The Job Done
A functional kitchen that is health and safety, food safety and risk compliant is crucial. It may not be ideal, it may not be new, but if your budget is tight then work with it until you can replace and revamp.Dependent on the finish you need to achieve, there are lots of things you can do to keep start-up costs down. Fresh paint on the walls, lots of draped fabric, low lighting and a friendly carpenter and some scrap wood can all contribute to a grungy chic look that needn’t cost too much.
You Have to Do Your Homework
In any industry, doing your due diligence before starting up is critical for success. This is particularly true for restaurant businesses, where merely knowing the food isn’t good enough. “Getting your bearings in the restaurant industry as a first-timer can be challenging, especially if you don’t have any previous experience in the business yourself, it’s important to be mentored or learn from someone who does” Liang specified. You need to get a general knowledge of the workings of the business before you start. There are a lot of concerns people don’t see.
This is the most difficult part, the step that stops most people from actually opening their own establishment. Financing. Although it is progressively harder to get financing for a restaurant nowadays, it’s not impossible. Between banks, small business agencies and investors, financing is possible but if you network and have a solid plan, it may be easier. Be prepared, professional and show potential investors that you know what you are doing.
Adapt If Necessary
While being consistent in food quality and service is important for success, the restaurant business is far from static. “I have found from observing businesses, you constantly need to be updating, renovating and evolving with the ever-changing taste of the general public to be popular or successful,” he said. The menu has to change allowing for fresher, more innovative dishes. When you come up with your concept and menu, it should be flexible enough to adapt when customers crave for something new.
Get the Word Out
“Advertising is a must and crucial for new restaurants. Look into new media like Instagram, facebook and twitter,” Liang said. Don’t overlook the power of a good website and layout of your media platforms. You could also get bloggers or food reviewers to visit your restaurant and post pictures online, request the attendance of newspapers and blast radio ads. As much as you can do to spread the word.
For a right owner, there is nothing better than running your own restaurant. You get to create an atmosphere and cuisine that people will love, but it comes with a lot of hard work. While we have outlined some major components in starting your own F&B business.
Find out how Liang (co-founder and chef) managed to follow his dreams of owning a restaurant and the challenges as well as pleasures of running WhupWhup:
Looking forward to our next visit already! WhupWhup is tricky to locate, tucked at the end of an industrial street. But there's free parking; look for the 'Safety First' & 'No Smoking' signs that deceive the location's earliest origins. Event bookings and retail space reservations can be accommodated.
Whup Whup Restaurant & Cafe
No. 12, Jalan SS13/3B
Subang Jaya Industrial Estate
47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor.
Tel: +603-5612 6250
Pork-free. Opens Wednesday to Sunday, from 11am to 10pm.
Check them out on Facebook: WhupWhup.my