This S’porean Transformed His Family’s Snack Store Into A Brunch Cafe

Tucked away in an indescribable neighborhood along Crawford Lane is a cafe that’s constantly packed with customers.

Singaporeans are known to be foodies and can easily find a good place. So the long winding lines seen outside Tolido might be a testament to the quality of their food.

Tolido’s Espresso Nook has been around for over seven years and has come a long way from the small snack shop it once was.

Despite having no business background, co-founder and head barista Douglas Tan was able to turn the business into a popular brunch spot in 2013.

From a humble canteen store to the popular brunch cafe

Image Credit: Tolido Espresso Nook

Douglas told Vulcan Post that Tolido was originally a small store in the canteen of the Science Center omni-theater in 2008.

It was a family stall serving spreads for breakfast all day, and was run by Douglas’s mother.

However, in 2013 they had to leave the building as it was going to be demolished.

As Tolido was a family business, it was the only source of income for his family. Thus, they had to adapt and seek new sources of income.

As Douglas also has a passion for brewing coffee, the Tan family decided to turn Tolido’s into coffee.

“Being a family business and not having much, we just started with everything we had now at the time or our canteen before, with kitchen utensils and appliances,” said the youngster. 28 year old man.

Brunch with a Singaporean twist

Tolido's espresso corner
Image Credit: Tolido Espresso Nook

After seven years of operation, Tolido’s has become well known for its local approach to traditional brunch offerings.

Douglas is taking extra steps to incorporate Singaporean flavors into regular Western dishes.

For example, the 462 Prawn Laksa Pasta, which costs S $ 17, is basically Singapore’s classic Laksa in pasta form.

While many may be skeptical of the merger, it is a hit with customers and the internet is inundated with photos of the creamy laksa dish.

Other popular dishes include Pandan pancakes, which feature another local twist. In fact, the S $ 11 pancakes were created for Singapore’s 50th anniversary.

However, customers liked it so much that it became a permanent item on the menu.

Asked about the inspiration behind the dishes at Tolido’s, Douglas shared that many of the dishes were meals that his family felt should be accessible as a breakfast staple for Singaporeans.

Back then, we felt like breakfast in Singapore lacked variety and significance, and a lot of the comfort foods I loved were only prepared at home. From there, we wanted to take it through Tolido to the masses.

Douglas Tan, co-founder of Espresso Nook de Tolido

In addition to being the co-founder, Douglas is also the head barista at Tolido. Over the years, the coffee enthusiast has taught himself the art of making a great cup of coffee.

Overcome an initial lack of business acumen

Tolido's espresso corner
Image Credit: Tolido Espresso Nook

When Douglas first entered the restaurant industry and started running Tolido’s, he was only 20 years old.

He admitted that the learning curve was steep and that he “didn’t have a lot of business acumen” at first. So stepping out of your comfort zone to run a business was difficult.

Although he has definitely learned many important skills over the years, he shared that even after seven years running the business is still difficult.

When asked what some of his biggest challenges are when running the business, he said that “the fear of not breaking even” was always a concern.

However, even though he declined to reveal any numbers, he said the company has enjoyed a steady growth trajectory over the years.

In addition, the team behind Tolido’s has never stopped innovating, in particular to fight against the effects of Covid-19.

For example, last December, the cafe launched its own limited edition, Spiced Orange Cold Brew Coffee.

To combat the long wait to secure a seat at the cafe, the team also has an online presence, allowing eager customers to pre-order online to avoid queues.

So despite the challenges that arose from the pandemic, Douglas is proud to say that Tolido has managed to “come out stronger”.

Featured Image Credit: Daniel Food Diary / Tolido’s Espresso Nook

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Jothi Venkat

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