DIY pancake a recipe for success

DIY pancake a recipe for success
Dawn Lim, owner of Nook House of Pancakes.

IT'S not often that a company gets investor interest barely two months into existence, but one pancake restaurant with a unique business model seems to have struck a winning formula.

What perhaps makes it more amazing is that the person who runs the show had no prior experience in business or the food and beverage (F&B) industry.

Nook House of Pancakes is run by 23-year-old Dawn Lim, a former Singapore Girl and model, along with two other partners. She seems to have carved out her own niche in an increasingly overcrowded cafe and all-day breakfast restaurant scene.

The "pancake art" concept behind Nook is fairly simple. As a customer, you are provided a bottle of pancake mix, a hot griddle and assorted colourings and toppings. Just go to work and make whatever design you might fancy.

This way of doing business cuts down unnecessary overheads, Ms Lim said. She pointed out how some F&B establishments have five service staff on a normal day in a much smaller space than Nook, which has a floor space of 1,400 square feet.

Even on a weekend, there are no more than five staff members, including Ms Lim, at the cafe. Only the chef and the dishwasher, who performs many other duties as well, are on the permanent staff roll. The rest of Ms Lim's helpers are on part-time employment.

When business first started, it was just her at the front end, waiting up to 60 people while being the cashier.

Ms Lim's prudence extends to her marketing efforts as well. She has focused almost solely on social networking site Facebook, and her only investment in marketing so far was for some videos about pancake making.

But Nook was not supposed to have turned out like this.

As late as two weeks before Ms Lim and her partners secured the restaurant's current location at Lorong Kilat, she had still wanted an all-day breakfast cafe, which was her lifelong dream.

But she felt uneasy about that concept. She has seen her fair share of failing F&B businesses - some outlets were shuttered within three months of opening - during her search for a shopfront. She also realised there is strong competition with many similar cafes sprouting across Singapore.

Eventually, she found out about DIY pancake operations overseas while surfing the Internet for ideas, and thought the novelty factor might work here. Even so, Ms Lim knew she needed to do some tweaking. "It wasn't enticing because they only made round pancakes," she said.

"And being a Singaporean and someone who gets bored easily, if I want to bring in DIY pancakes that are round, I don't think it will survive - Singaporeans won't really like it and there is no meaning to making just round pancakes."

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