Johor F&B businesses recovering and looking to expand


Time to grow: Eateries such as this one in Johor Baru are experiencing an increase in customer volume.

JOHOR BARU: The resumption of travel between Malaysia and Singapore has given food and beverage operators the confidence to expand their business.

Teo Wei Keat, one of the partners of a restaurant chain selling Hong Kong roasted meats, said there was a significant increase in customer volume when the Malaysian border reopened in April after more than two years of inactivity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our branches in Bukit Indah and Eco Botanic City, which are minutes away from the Second Link, have been enjoying a 40% to 50% increase in business compared to our other six branches.

“We are optimistic and are planning to open a new branch sometime this year.

“My partners and I are currently looking for a suitable location in the Johor Baru area as we currently do not have a branch in the city centre yet,” said Teo, 34.

Although many industries are facing difficulty hiring workers, Teo said recruiting staff for a new restaurant branch would not be a problem for them due to the company’s policy.

He said his company did not lay off any of its employees during the pandemic despite seeing a drop in business.

Mohd Radzi Ab Wahab, co-owner of another restaurant, is also planning to expand his lok-lok (skewered food) business.

The 42-year-old said as sales at his restaurant in Bandar Seri Alam had improved by at least 45% this year, he and his partner were looking at expanding the business.

“Since we mostly do our marketing on social media, we noticed that many visitors are from outside Johor Baru and Singapore.

“As such, we have to look for a new strategy and are planning to open a new branch in Gelang Patah with a central kitchen at the Iskandar Halal Park early next year.

“I believe the expansion will also create job opportunities for youths in Johor Baru as our existing 15 employees are young,” Mohd Radzi said, adding that he hoped to one day enter the Singapore market as well.

He said apart from lok-lok, his restaurant also served oden – a Japanese style one-pot dish – and crafted drinks that were popular with youths and families.

As for 27-year-old Denny Loong, who owns a restaurant in Batu Pahat, the encouraging market has led to his decision to open a food and beverage outlet in Taman Mount Austin last month.

“The response to our restaurant, which serves Szechuan Chinese dishes with a ‘nasi campur’ twist, has been good so far as there are not many outlets offering the same thing.

“Coupled with the economic situation in the state, it has given my partners and I the confidence to expand and we are looking at several areas including the city area and Taman Sutera Utama,” said Loong.

He added that they were not necessarily targeting Singaporeans as they wanted to provide an alternative option for diners by offering Szechuan dishes at a more affordable price as such cuisine usually comes with a hefty price tag.

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