Hawker Stall Popular With Malaysian Uni Students
If you work or study in Subang, you’ve probably heard of Uncle Soon Fried Rice.
If you’re on Twitter you’ve probably seen their “hello ah boys and girls” tweets with their student audience.
Their fried rice is famous for their wok hei (wok flavor) and belacan sambal which accompanies the meal.
Currently they have 3 branches at SS15, DK Senza and Sunway 128.
While the brand remains Uncle Soon, the business is already passed down to their daughter, Shian, who took over right after completing SPM.
Relocation of Alor Setar to KL
Uncle Soon Fried Rice was from Alor Setar, where his parents were born and raised.
Shian’s parents have worked as head hawkers for 22 and 23 years.
They started this fried rice business together in 1990 before getting married and continued to operate for 16 years in Alor Setar.
The recipe for fried rice we know today belongs to her mother’s aunt, whom she learned with working part-time in elementary school.
One day her parents heard about their friend opening a cafe in KL and invited them to bring their business.
After Shian graduated from primary school, their family moved to Selangor in 2007.
It was then that they opened their first Uncle Soon hawker stand at Foh Foh SS15 restaurant.
Dreams about taking over the business from his parents
Shian had always wanted to take over her parents’ business when she was growing up.
“Cooking is actually my hobby. Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to work in the F&B industry, ”she recalls.
She started helping in the hawker stall at the age of 13, just as she started high school.
At the time, his parents could not afford to hire more workers since they had just started their business in KL.
So Shian would come after school every day to help clean the tables and deliver food to the customers.
After a year of helping, her parents started teaching her how to cook fried rice with their family recipe.
They hoped she would take over the business when they retired.
Lucky for them, Shian’s dreams of cooking for a living match their expectations for her.
When she finished SPM in 2013, she immediately stepped in full-time for Uncle Soon Fried Rice.
Her parents helped her for 2 years, then completely handed over the business to her.
She struggled at first with operations like forgetting to stock up at the right time.
“It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t difficult either, I was just used to it. I also wanted to let my parents retire earlier and earn some money on my own, ”said Shian.
In the footsteps of his parents
Like his parents, Shian started in the hawker business early on.
She also took over the business with her then boyfriend at the age of 20, like her parents in Alor Setar. Today they are husband and wife.
It’s not every day that you hear about a friend taking over a hawking business right after SPM, so I wondered if Shian had ever faced judgments from her peers.
“No. In fact, sometimes they always ask for a ‘VIP line’ every time they come to eat because they don’t want to wait,” she said.
With Shian’s determination about the business forever, I guess the opinions of his peers won’t really stop him from achieving his dreams.
Plus, she had always wanted to work for herself rather than for someone else.
“Being an employer will always be better than being an employee. It’s always better to own a business than to work for others, ”she said.
Which is quite understandable, considering their average income is 12-15K RM per month before MCO.
At first it was only 5-6K RM, but thanks to food bloggers like KL Foodie and OpenRice, they have become more popular.
Although Shian doesn’t face any peer pressure, she feels the pressure of maintaining the brand her parents created for Uncle Soon Fried Rice.
When the business grew, Shian hired and trained foreign workers to reduce the waiting time for their clients.
However, some old customers mentioned the difference in taste of fried rice by foreign workers and his family.
“I’m quite afraid that the old clients will run away. So for some customers who ask my parents or me to fry, we will accommodate their request. “
Being affected by the pandemic
When MCO came in they were no longer earning the RM12-15K average they used to earn.
On average, their SS15 branch sells around 300 plates while the other 2 branches sell over 100 plates of fried rice every day.
The price of their fried rice ranges from RM7 to RM10.50 per plate.
During the MCO, sales dropped to almost 30% while they were only doing take out.
However, this decrease was mitigated by delivery services after 2 weeks.
So currently they are earning around RM9-10K per month and selling an average of 200 plates at SS15 and 40 plates at the other 2 branches every day.
Reduce their waiting time even further
Over the years, Shian has branched out and hired more people to reduce customer wait times as their business grows.
Uncle Soon Fried Rice is popular among college students as it has been their target market since their early days.
Shian’s goal was to open branches close to universities, which she managed to achieve in 3 years.
She and her husband opened 128 Sunway branch in March 2018 and DK Senza branch in March 2019.
DK Senza is right across from Taylor’s Lakeside while 128 Sunway is right across from Sunway College and Sunway University.
Being closer to his target market saves his customers’ commute time, but Shian dreams of making his fried rice even more convenient to obtain.
Her husband thought about putting their fried rice in vending machines to allow office workers and students with limited lunch hours to get their fried rice.
“If customers buy from vending machines, they just have to choose the fried rice they want, then pay and wait about 3 minutes for the fried rice to heat up.”
“We plan to install the vending machines inside the mall and inside colleges and universities,” she explained.
Since she followed in her parents’ footsteps by taking over this business, I wondered if they intended to make it a family business.
“In the future, we will continue to operate Uncle Soon fried rice together until our child takes over, with the premise that they are not interested in studying too, like me and my husband.
- You can read more about Uncle Soon Fried Rice here.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Soon Te Shian, current owner of Uncle Soon Fried Rice
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