Passing down family restaurants: The Green View story


Although he now effectively runs the business, Jay Wvin still consults his dad Jau Wey on important decisions pertaining to the restaurant. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

Even on first impressions, you can instantly tell that hard work runs in the veins of 62-year-old Tan Jau Wey. Despite having passed the mantle of running his 31-year-old Chinese seafood restaurant Green View in Petaling Jaya to his son Tan Jay Wvin, 33, Jau Wey still pops in frequently to check that business is running smoothly.

“I live just behind the restaurant and honestly I am not that old too. I want to know whether the restaurant is running well and I also want to check on the staff. I have been in the business for many years so I know that when the big cat is here, everyone is a bit scared lah,” he says, laughing.

In many ways, Jau Wey has been working hard since he was just a kid. The eldest child of parents who were farmers, Jau Wey and his 10 siblings were taught early on that if they wanted something, they had to go out and get it themselves. He says it was a hard life, but it toughened him up early.

“I grew up in Teluk Intan, Perak, in a rural area without running water or electricity. If I wanted to go to town, I had to take a sampan to get there! That sort of life trains a person to be tough,” he says.

From the time he was 10, Jau Wey was already helping his parents with farming, often doing hard, heavy work like tilling the land. At 13, he left school, admitting that this was because he didn’t perform well academically.

Now that he has taken over, Jay Wvin hopes to create a better business organisational model with Green View and Galah Gala so that his sons can take over seamlessly if they are keen. Clockwise from left: Jau Wey, Ian, Jay Wvin and Roy. — SAMUEL ONG/The StarNow that he has taken over, Jay Wvin hopes to create a better business organisational model with Green View and Galah Gala so that his sons can take over seamlessly if they are keen. Clockwise from left: Jau Wey, Ian, Jay Wvin and Roy. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

From there, he held a series of jobs – starting out as a car mechanic in Ipoh, Perak, before moving to the Klang Valley to help a relative with their kopitiam business. But he says his true start in F&B happened in 1987 when his brother started operating a yong tau foo stall.

“I went to help him run the stall. Business was good so he moved into a shop lot in 1988 but in 1993, he decided he didn’t want to run his eatery anymore. So I took over from him and started Green View,” he says.

At first, Green View sold simple mixed rice dishes and single meals like curry mee but Jau Wey started adding items as the years went on and also expanded the size of the restaurant as opportunities presented themselves.

“I had my first shop in 1993, then I rented more adjoining lots in 1999, 2003 and 2013. When other tenants in the area moved, I quickly rented their lots. I was lucky because there are times when you wait and wait but people don’t move so you can’t expand.

“If you want to run a business with just one shop, your business will be stagnant. So I continued expanding the size of the restaurant and once it was bigger and I had more customers, I started selling more premium items like seafood,” he says.

These days, Green View has become a beloved neighbourhood Chinese seafood restaurant renowned for its sang har mee, a luscious noodle dish which utilises giant freshwater prawns. The eatery’s other seafood offerings like crabs, prawns and squid are also hot ticket items.

Green View's fame has been built off the back of the eatery's famed sang har mee, which uses huge freshwater prawns. — SAMUEL ONG/The StarGreen View's fame has been built off the back of the eatery's famed sang har mee, which uses huge freshwater prawns. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

Central to the eatery’s continued health and growth is the involvement of Jau Wey’s son Jay Wvin who took over the business in 2015.

Growing up, Jay Wvin says he and his father didn’t really have a close relationship as Jau Wey worked long, hard hours and went to sleep right after he came home. The only time they spent together was in the restaurant as Jay Wvin helped out in the business on weekends and during school holidays.

But one thing he truly appreciated was that his father encouraged education – having never had the opportunity to study himself.

So, Jay Wvin ended up completing a degree in aerospace engineering in the United Kingdom. When he finished his studies, he realised his career options were fairly limited in Malaysia. Coincidentally, his father was going through some health issues and Jay Wvin knew he needed to step up.

“In the early stages, my idea was just to help out in the business, not to inherit it. When I first came in, I was also finding my own way. I felt like there was nothing much to change because the senior people were all there and they were doing their own thing and as a newcomer, I couldn’t change it.

“So the first few years were like ‘Ada ke takde ke, tak kisah’ (an indifference to the business). And then in 2018, I came in and facilitated the renovations and started putting my heart into changing the entire thing. It was a transition point,” admits Jay Wvin.

Dishes like sweet and sour spicy crab are popular items at Green View, which has gained a reputation for its delicious Chinese seafood offerings. — SAMUEL ONG/The StarDishes like sweet and sour spicy crab are popular items at Green View, which has gained a reputation for its delicious Chinese seafood offerings. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

His father’s work ethic also evidently rubbed off on him because instead of resting easy on his laurels, he decided to understand the business from the ground up, employing his brilliant engineering mind to science, technology and innovation in the business.

This included taking up a diploma in Chinese culinary arts so that he could fully understand what went into making great Chinese food. After completing the course, Jay Wvin went to work in the Oriental Group as well as the Mandarin Oriental hotel to broaden his knowledge base.

“My dad is not a professional culinary chef – he relies on our chefs for this. So I wanted to know the scientific way of understanding things – from food preparation, hygiene, processing and international safety standards, so we could provide our customers with better, safer food. So the best way to do this was to go out there and learn,” says Jay Wvin.

Part of his modernisation efforts also included introducing software for data collection, streamlining the menu from 400 options to 150, and introducing social media and digitalisation.

Understandably, these new changes were not easy for Jau Wey to digest and father and son initially butted heads and argued a lot. Thankfully, these arguments eventually led to better understanding and co-operation between the two (or in Jay Wvin’s words, they had to “lose their egos”). These days, both have newfound respect for each other and Jau Wey even tacitly agrees that his son is doing an excellent job.

“He is young and he has ideas and vision, so that is good,” he says, smiling.

Although he could just look after the one established restaurant he has been entrusted with, Jay Wvyin has instead focused on expanding and seizing on a gap in the market.

Galah Gala is Jay Wvin’s first expansion effort and is a fully halal-certified Chinese seafood restaurant that he runs with his wife Beatrice Tey (pictured here). — FilepicGalah Gala is Jay Wvin’s first expansion effort and is a fully halal-certified Chinese seafood restaurant that he runs with his wife Beatrice Tey (pictured here). — Filepic

“I always thought that there were customers who wanted to try our food but couldn’t because we also serve pork and alcohol,” he says.

This is how Jay Wvin ended up opening Galah Gala over a year ago in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL. Galah Gala is a halal-certified Chinese seafood restaurant that serves many of the famed seafood offerings (including sang har mee) that have made Green View such a household name, except this new eatery is a more inclusive one that caters to all segments of the market.

Jay Wvin also says part of the reason he wanted to expand was to show younger staff at Green View that there would be promotion opportunities for them.

Moving forward, Jay Wvin plans to open more Galah Gala outlets as well as another branch or two of Green View, if he is able to find a space large enough to accommodate his requirements.

“When I start expanding Galah Gala, I will learn how to centralise talent management and product management. So once I get the handle of opening multiple outlets, that will give me more experience in terms of opening another Green View, because I think there is room for expansion with Green View too,” he says.

Jay Wvin is also hopeful that if he runs the business in a more organised way, his young sons Ian Tan, six, and Roy Tan, five, will be interested in following in his footsteps in the future.“My dad gave me a safe, established platform but he also built this business without any proper management, so to me, my mission is to solve these problems so that my sons don’t see this business as troublesome if they want to take over one day,” he says.

Jau Weng meanwhile is content to spend his days ensuring everything is in order at his restaurant as well as doing the thing that gives him the most pleasure: spending time with his family.

“I am happy that the restaurant is thriving and my children and their spouses all live nearby, so in the nights, my kids and grandkids can come to the restaurant and we can all eat together,” he says, smiling widely.

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