Haerris Riani, 30, was a salaryman before he decided to venture into the business world, running the popular cafe Tossed! in Jaya Shopping Centre, as well as an events management company. ZIEMAN reports.
What motivated you to get into this business?
I’m motivated by the fact that my cafe is different from the franchise outlets that are mushrooming these days. I’m also inspired to have my own brand and name to carry, which could develop into a household name in the future.
The food business is very competitive, isn’t it?
A study I saw showed that 60% of food businesses fail in the first year. But then, there will always be risk in any business venture. In my case, before making a final decision and in order to minimise any error, I did a thorough feasibility study.
The quality of our food and customer service are two important aspects in this type of business, and they require absolute attention. This is vital and is the main focus of my staff every day. It’s also important to listen to our customers, because the “customers is always right”!.
What’s the unique selling point of your cafe?
We provide good quality local and western food that’s close to home-style cooking. The recipes are also unique and one of a kind.
Moreover, our prices are competitive and affordable. Our cafe has a comfortable and cosy ambience, where you can relax with your friends or family members, or even have a business discussion.
Did you encounter any teething problems?
Designing a kitchen on an island space with many restrictions imposed by the landlord, balancing the utilisation of staff to work seven days a week, and choosing the right type of kitchen equipment and utensils wasn’t easy. And very tedious. On top of that, I had a tough time scouting for vendors and reliable suppliers.
What are the biggest challenges?
In any business, there is bound to be problems, sometimes big and sometimes small. I take it as part and parcel of doing business. My main concern is to ensure high standards at the right cost. This is challenging especially with the prevailing fluctuation of raw material prices.
I try to work closely with my suppliers to make sure all products are delivered promptly, are of the highest quality and competitively priced. Another problem is manpower. I have structured proper staff training and development, and I practise tight discipline.
How do you make sure your business runs smoothly?
Since the start of operations, I have developed a system and standard operating procedure for the staff to adhere to at all times. Their performance is also monitored from time to time, and we make changes and modifications to the system to achieve better results and to ensure the smooth-running of the business.
How do you inspire your team?
I believe that in order for an organisation to succeed, there must be a team of dedicated staff. I inspire them by empowering them with good working ethics and a continuous learning culture. Additionally, staff are also motivated and inspired with performance-based reward schemes.
What do you do with fussy customers?
This is a common problem faced by cafe owners. We listen to all requests and try to cater to the best of our ability. Sometimes, customers are fussy due to some bad experience encountered in the past. To avoid another bad experience, we make sure there is no recurrence. We welcome helpful customers who provide useful and constructive feedback.
I always live by this quote: “Don’t think you know it all”.
Do you have customers who order off-menu?
This rarely happens. When it happens, I would recommend some other items or alternatives on the menu to fulfil their requirements. In any case, I am always flexible.
Any plans to expand?
I have been approached by several malls and shopping centres to open new outlets at their respective premises. Expanding the business and having additional outlets is definitely in my future plans. However, that depends on the availibilty of funds, manpower and finding the right location.
I’m confident Tossed! will do much better, given proper financing and a suitable location. I hope financial institutions would be more supportive and assist me to grow and achieve my desired objectives and goals.
What is your favourite past-time?
My favourite past-time is travelling and checking out newly opened eateries to sample different types of food and drinks around town, as well as abroad. On top of that, I’ve been an avid motorsports fan since 1998, especially Formula One. I wouldn’t miss watching a race and I collect several memorabilia from the teams.
Any quotes that inspire you, and why?
A quote that I live by would be “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand”.