THE adage ‘old is gold’ could best describe Hameediyah Restaurant in Campbell Street, a name synonymous with generations of Penangites who have savoured the signature dishes of briyani, chicken curry kapitan, beef rendang, mutton kurma and murtabak at the eatery.
After more than a century in the business, 108 years to be exact, the nasi kandar outlet is set to bring its taste and tradition to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Labuan and Kota Kinabalu.
“We are late, as every other nasi kandar outlet that has sprung up over the last decade in the country have spread their wings, seeking new horizons, and we never ventured away from home,” said its owner Syed Ibrahim Abdul Sukkoor.
All that is expected to change, as a new Hameediyah Nasi Kandar outlet will open its doors to Johoreans in June, through a franchise, and the next stop would be Labuan.
“The plan to set up sanctioned Hameediyah outlets was a dream for two decades but it never materialised as we were in our comfort zone,” said Syed Ibrahim, 48, who runs the business with elder brother Ahamed Seeni Pakir Abdul Sukkoor, 57.
This very comfort zone brought a host of issues over the last decade where the restaurant lost its lustre, with dwindling patrons who found the taste of food ‘average’, unhygienic conditions and poor service.
The onslaught of new nasi kandar restaurants which sprung up everywhere on the island further lured away customers, as a new generation of patrons flocked to savour new tastes and flavours.
Taking stock of the situation, Hameediyah hired consultant Raghavan Nanoo to ‘turn things around’ and advise the management on how best to address the state of affairs.
“We needed an external perspective who could objectively look at the situation and tell us what we were doing wrong, even if it means changing our century-old tradition of managing the business,” said Syed Ibrahim.
“Today, after three months of revamping the business with a cost of RM500,000, Hameediyah is seeing a increase in daily customers from over 150 to 300.
“And we won the ‘Cleanest Restaurant’ award from the local council recently, beating 50 other restaurants, something which we are really proud of.”
The once greasy and wet kitchen at the restaurant is today a shiny area, with the latest cleaning and washing equipment, headed by a group executive chef who has 20 years of experience and his last stint was with a four-star hotel.
Chef Zainuddin Rahim revamped the entire kitchen by setting up a standard operating procedure (SOP) of ‘managing the ingredients’ which goes into the food, which must be purchased by the cook from the store on a periodical basis.
“I implemented the vendor customer system to ensure the spices were managed well and the purchasing done right, and created a hygienic kitchen condition where everyone wears safety boots, with uniform and pants instead of sarongs to portray a vibrant management.
“We have 40 workers, including six cooks, and it was a tough three months to implement the changes with the staff, as some refused to budge.
“A month of renovation to comply with the heritage requirements and with active marketing, we have doubled the revenue,” said Raghavan.
The franchise operation, said Syed Ibrahim, would be strictly monitored with the ingredients and spices packaged from Hameediyah in Campbell Street, and Zainuddin to train the cooks on the know-how over a three-month period.
He said the franchise would be between RM600,000 and RM800,000 depending on the size of the outlet, and would have a clause where the franchise could be revoked if the SOP was not adhered to.
“If the franchise runs successfully, the next stop would be China, where the population is already exposed to the taste and flavour of spicy South Asian dishes,” he said.