If we looked back 8 years to 2013, it would be safe to say that Lucas Siah never imagined he would lead a gourmet burger empire born in Penang.
Back then, he and his high school friend Pell were in quite different situations.
Lucas was helping his parents’ cottage business which was barely making ends meet and was therefore paid irregularly. Meanwhile, Pell had a real full-time job with his father.
During a meeting, they started joking that they should just set up a roadside stand to sell burgers. “Somehow our joke came true,” Lucas said in an interview with Vulcan Post.
So, at 25, Lucas and Pell became the founders of Spade’s Burger, opening a simple stand for beginners.
Try your luck despite stagnating sales
“From the start, I was fully committed because I did not have a decent income. During the day, I prepared the ingredients myself in my parents’ kitchen, including the rolls, patties, sauces and toppings, ”recalls Lucas.
At night, Pell would then join him at the stall. In their first few months, everything seemed to be going well and Pell even quit his full-time job to engage in Spade’s Burger as well. Then sales stagnated towards the end of the year.
“It was the best decision at the time for Pell to return to his full-time job with his father rather than selling burgers at a stall with a future that looked uncertain,” said Lucas.
As the Chinese New Year approached, Lucas was then left with the decision to end the business or take a leap of faith and open a real burger restaurant.
“The call has been made and the rest, as you know, is history.”
Choose one thing to do and do it right
Did you know that Spade’s Burger could have been named Ace or Ace’s Burger (in reference to a manga character)?
But the team discovered that there was already an Ace Burger in the world, so Spade came to mind as a second name that was always linked to card suits.
While they didn’t get their first choice of name, it turned out that they certainly had a trump card up their sleeves to capture the market.
Knowing exactly what the Penangites wanted, all the team had to do was serve them and do it right.
“Our customers knew exactly what to expect when they visited us – in this case, pork burgers,” Lucas explained. While they also offer chicken and beef patties for a variety of burgers, it’s safe to say that until today, they’re still best known for their pork burgers.
The brand quickly grew to 5 outlets in Penang within 4 years, but the major turning point that helped the company grow was its expansion out of the pearl of the east.
Instead of jumping straight to Klang Valley, the team first chose Ipoh because they believed it was a new market with little competition at the time. Most importantly, it was strategically located on the Klang Valley Road.
Kampar, Perak was their next stop, albeit with a slightly different strategy: a less premium version of their menu to cater to the students there.
In 2018, they entered the shores of Selangor, and by 2021, they would have 5 outlets in the Klang Valley.
From a stand to 10 points of sale in 9 years
It is always said that having a solid core product can take a business a long way. For Spade’s Burger, Lucas explained that most of their burgers have been on the menu since 2013, including their Baconizer, Dark Knight, 300, and Shinobi, to name a few.
Of course, they get better and better every now and then, and Spade’s Burger keeps it spicy by introducing new items on a monthly basis as well.
Since its launch, there is no doubt that Malaysia has experienced a boom in gourmet burger shops, with several also specializing in pork burgers. Still, Spade’s Burger’s fan base appears to be growing steadily.
The plausible reason for this? “We’re just continuing what we did without cutting corners. Healthy competition is always welcome, ”concluded Lucas.
The right goal should be to make burgers a staple and expand the pie. This means that more people regularly enjoy burgers instead of the more common rice and noodles.
Lucas Siah, Founder and CEO of Spade’s Burger
With this mindset, the Spade’s Burger team succeeded in transforming an open stand with a capital of RM 5,000 into a multi-million Ringgit business with over RM 10 million in annual revenue.
They achieved this without the help of investors or even family support, Lucas said, allowing them to remain 100% self-sufficient.
Bringing better burgers to more
In the future, fans of the gourmet burger brand can expect greater access to its products, as Lucas said they want to open more outlets once the pandemic subsides and the market would be ready.
He also added: “As license / franchise applications are growing rapidly, we might look in that direction to open up the possibility for foreigners to join Spade’s Burger brand. “
If the brand decides to franchise, the quality of the ingredients would not be a problem because it has a central kitchen to standardize its offers in all points of sale. Instead, he should make sure he’s working with the right partners to maintain service quality and customer satisfaction.
Sticking to what they do best (AKA pork burgers) seems like the obvious strategy, but Lucas also commented on the great potential of the halal market in Malaysia.
“A brand new brand with a separate central kitchen targeted at this market doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all.
- You can read more about Spade’s Burger here.
- You can read more about Malaysian F&B startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Spade Burger
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