TAKE a family recipe for tasty waffles, put it together with a keen sense for business, and what do you get? For Rashedah Ridzwani, 27, the combination developed into a successful family food business that is now operating from four outlets in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.
Called Wafflestop, the idea for the business had sprouted when Rashedah observed that her mother-in-law made delicious waffles, and friends and relatives would come by regularly to have them.
“My mother-in-law, Kalsom, always serves waffles to visitors as she enjoys making them,” says Rashedah, who is also hooked on the waffles.
“Her mother, who used to live in England, taught her how to bake waffles and she also used to serve them to her guests. My mother-in-law is continuing that practice.”
With capital of just RM5,000, Rashedah set up her first waffles outlet in Desa Sri Hartamas three years ago.
It was meant to test how they would be received, and the stall was opened only during the weekend.
Assisted by her husband, Rashedah made and sold the classic round-shaped waffles topped with either butter and honey or ice cream and fruits.
It was hard work but their efforts were soon rewarded by the growing number of customers who flocked to their stall to enjoy the waffles they were dishing up.
After one year, and having gained more experience in running a business, she opened another stall in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) in 2002.
“The first stall was a good training ground. Besides checking stocks in the morning, I had to serve customers, wash dishes, teach the workers and monitor the comings and goings at the stall,” says Rashedah.
Observing that her daughter-in-law had a good head for business, Kalsom (who handles the overall administration of the enterprise) suggested that she looked into expanding the scope of their products by testing out other toppings and looking for creative ways to serve the waffles. She encouraged Rashedah to test out waffles served with beef, chicken and mushroom, and their friends and relatives were willing guinea pigs.
It took one year of experimenting before they found the right toppings to complement the waffles, says Rashedah.
Three new toppings – triple pepper beef, creamy chicken, and sizzling garlic mushroom – were created and added to the menu. These were categorised as savoury waffles.
Their range of sweet toppings was also expanded, and they now include flavours such as choc-a-nut, cinnamon sugar, ice-creamery, golden bananas, royal blueberry, peach treat and strawberry hills.
The price of both types of waffles ranges from RM1.90 to RM7.50.
In 2003, another Wafflestop outlet was opened in Kuala Lumpur’s Bintang Walk. Yet another outlet was opened early this year in the Bandar Utama shopping complex in Petaling Jaya.
The mouth-watering aroma of baked waffles is a tantalising hint to the presence of these outlets in their respective locations. Popular among the customers is the chocolate sauce, which is a homemade concoction. The sauce is thick but not overly sweet, and waffles dipped in it and sprinkled with nuts are a hit with children.
For easy eating or take-away, the waffles are stuck on ice-cream sticks.
Rashedah says they got the idea while visiting a food exhibition in Singapore last year.
“We used to place the waffles in ice-cream cones or bowls and lace the edges with chocolate sauce, but customers complained that it made their hands sticky,” she says.
Rashedah wants to see further growth in the business, and one sure way to realise this, she feels, is to change people’s perception of the waffle, which is traditionally accepted as just a breakfast food or dessert.
In fact, when they set out to develop their savoury toppings, it was with the idea that they would produce waffles that would also be eaten for brunch, lunch or even as a mid-day snack.
Currently, Rashedah is fully occupied managing the four outlets, which keep her busy from morning to late evening.
So far, almost RM150,000 has been invested in the business, and she wants to maintain it at a pace she can handle. She reinvests 30% of the profits into buying baking equipment and fittings needed at the Wafflestop outlets.
She admits that managing all the four outlets is a heavy workload, but remains upbeat in her outlook. The secret lies in consistently pacing yourself, Rashedah says.
“Right now, we are taking a back seat and moving slowly so that the business will grow together with the needs of the consumers.”
Wafflestop outlets are at Lot LG319 (phase 2A) One Utama, Bintang Walk in the KL city centre, Warung Uncle Don in Desa Sri Hartamas and Rasta food court in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.