Tenderfresh Founder Used To Sell Chickens

The F&B Tenderfresh group started as a hawker stall at the Whitley Road Hawker Center in the 1970s.

However, business was “really bad,” according to founder and CEO Jimmy Soh. His stall had low sales of $ 50 to $ 60 per day.

Fast forward to 2020, Tenderfresh now has 18 brands and 64 outlets. They plan to increase their portfolio to 24 brands and 75 outlets by the end of this year despite the pandemic.

Here’s how the Singaporean peddler rose through the ranks to lead a culinary empire.

From Hawker Stall to F&B channels

Jimmy Soh at Tenderfresh's first outlet
Jimmy Soh at Tenderfresh’s premier outlet / Image credit: Tenderfresh

Jimmy was inspired by selling fried chicken when he worked as a salesperson for a poultry company.

The 62-year-old noticed that his customers rejected chickens that were too small for the bigger ones. He then decided to sell them as fried chickens because he didn’t want to let them go to waste.

At that time, no one was selling fried spring chicken at all. We were the only ones.

– Jimmy Soh, Founder and CEO of Tenderfresh Group

However, the idea did not take off immediately and he was forced to innovate and add new products to the menu like grilled chicken wings.

Customers love the recipes so much, they’ll pre-order up to 300 BBQ Wings and Spring Chicken.

Tenderfresh Spring Chicken
Image Credit: Tenderfresh

A few years later, he opened a second Tenderfresh outlet in a Jurong coffeeshop.

Tenderfresh grew into coffeeshops, but then ran its own restaurants such as its flagship store on Cheong Chin Nam Road and the hawker-themed Hawkerman restaurant.

Tenderfresh Classic at Cheong Chin Nam Road
Tenderfresh Classic on Cheong Chin Nam Road / Image credit: Heartlander Tourist

It also launched 18 other F&B brands such as Amigo’s, ToriGo !, Tenderbest, Golden Rooster and i chicks.

The Tenderfresh Xpress kiosk concept has also been created for those looking for a quick lunch fix or dinner extras.

Tenderfresh announced yesterday (November 4) its partnership with Kimly Coffeeshop, one of Singapore’s largest traditional coffee operators to develop Kedai Kopi, a new concept of halal coffeeshop at Clementi.

Covering approximately 5,000 square feet with up to 144 seats, it is expected to open in mid-December 2020.

The coffeeshop will house nine food stalls, including Tenderbest, Mr Teh Tarik Group, Istimewa Nasi Padang, Hawkerman Street Kitchen, 380 Nasi Lemak and Mee Bagus.

Enlargement and diversification

Jimmy shared that consistency in food quality is a challenge. That’s why in 2018, he invested in a 25,000 square foot central kitchen with automation machines.

“This is to help develop OEM products for our sauces, marinated raw meats, salads, etc. to achieve the best consistency and less reliance on labor. ”

The establishment of a central kitchen also allows the company to grow and diversify into other businesses, he added.

Another challenge is to respond to the changing tastes of customers. Restaurant chains must also evolve to adapt to the dining experience.

This is why the Group decided three years ago to introduce various concepts with the key principle of keeping 60 to 80 percent of Tenderfresh’s basic menu, consisting of signature fried and roasted chicken; and introduce an additional 20 to 40 percent consisting of new menu items tailored to each concept.

– Jimmy Soh, Founder and CEO of Tenderfresh Group

While all of its brands differ in appearance and offerings, Tenderfresh’s main menu is featured in each of their brands, with an emphasis on great taste at great value.

Hawkerman singpost
Hawkerman Singpost / Image Credit: Little Big Red Dot

The team had also focused on introducing different dining experiences through store design – each store looks and feels different.

Among so many milestones, Jimmy shared that one of his proudest accomplishments was getting halal certification in 1993 so they could capture a larger population.

Maintain the main Tenderfresh menu in each concept

No doubt you’ll find Tenderfresh’s iconic chicken products in every concept they’ve launched.

For one thing, Hawkerman is a selection of recipes from Singapore’s heritage hawkers, paired with Tenderfresh’s offerings.

hawkerman
Image Credit: Hawkerman

We had worked with real hawkers whose recipes had been in Singapore for over 40 years, like Hokkien Mee and Hokkien Popiah paired with Tenderfresh’s signature chicken and Nanyang kopi and teh.

– Jimmy Soh, Founder and CEO of Tenderfresh Group

Additionally, Tenderbest Makcik Tuckshop is a cafe serving nostalgic tuckshop fare and barista coffee like its popular Smoky Iced Caramel Macchiato.

They also recently collaborated with Singapore-based cheesecake brand Cat & The Fiddle at their store Jalan Kayu to present their famous cheesecake to diners.

Tenderbest Makcik Tuckshop @ Jln Kayu
Tenderbest Makcik Tuckshop @ Jln Kayu / Image Credit: Tenderfresh

On the other hand, Tenderbest Makcik Market is a collaboration with Mr. Teh Tarik Group and local dough maker Asyura Paste.

Diners can look forward to their favorite menu teh tarik, roti prata and tze char.

The dining experience is very different from that of international brands and we have more localized menus offering various options such as Asian fusion pasta, chicken ribs, fish & chips and steaks.

Only at Tenderfresh can you enjoy your favorite fried chicken and a nice bowl of Chendol at the same time.

– Jimmy Soh, Founder and CEO of Tenderfresh Group

How they survived COVID-19

Most of their restaurants have experienced a 30 to 40 percent drop in restaurant sales.

“We also have three restaurant brands: Caterfresh (Halal Catering), Good Chance Catering and White Lily (Funeral Catering), which have seen sales decline by over 80%,” said Jimmy.

However, they saw a silver lining as more businesses approached their central kitchen for food solutions during the breaker days.

Bolognese sauce and coleslaw
Image Credit: Tenderfresh

They helped them make their products ranging from sauces, soups, pastry fillings, karaage to “something simple but labor intensive like cutting vegetables”.

Their retail products, including marinated meats, coleslaw and pasta, have also seen increased sales, with more families buying them for home-cooked meals.

“Growth in this area has helped the group hold up over this period,” added Jimmy.

Opening more halal joints

Many of our Muslim friends have shared that whenever they visit the malls the food options are limited to the big brands of QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) serving the same options everywhere or only at the food court.

– Jimmy Soh, Founder and CEO of Tenderfresh Group

As a result, they are working to provide more halal options.

Hokkien chick
Hokkien Chick / Image Credit: Tenderfresh

In the next two months, the group will open 11 points of sale and six new brands, including the halal certified coffeeshop Kedai Kopi.

“We have also seen a strong increase in our retail division and our research and development team is exploring more ready meals, retail packs and revamping some of our current dining spaces to offer more to our customers. customers, ”he said.

The pure grain of a Hawker

As Jimmy was once a peddler, he understands the hard work behind it and the paper-thin margins in the F&B industry. This is how he managed to find his way to success.

Jimmy Soh Tenderfresh
Image Credit: Tenderfresh

He started his business from scratch and is used to devoting long hours to his business.

So how is the hawker or catering landscape different from that of the time, and what opportunities and challenges await future entrepreneurs?

In the past, the peddler was expected to be the chef, order taker and cashier.

Nowadays, they also have to manage delivery orders, have to learn how to run effective promotions on the delivery platform to stay competitive and even don the marketing hat to maintain their social media presence, etc.

The task becomes more difficult even for an experienced peddler. They should however still need to understand how digital tools should be applied and realize that there is only so much they can gain from doing so.

– Jimmy Soh, Founder and CEO of Tenderfresh Group

Featured Image Credit: Tenderfresh Group / DanielFoodDiary

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