Soup Restaurant is set to ramp up its food-manufacturing business as it looks to establish its second central kitchen by the end of the year.
With the additional 5,000 sq ft facility, its subsidiary Samsui Supplies and Services aims to increase its variety on the retail front as well as making 5,000 to 8,000 ready-to-eat meals a day, up from 2,000 to 3,000 at the moment.
These meals are provided to welfare organisations, including nursing homes, at low cost although the company does not rule out supplying to other types of organisations in the future.
Samsui Supplies and Services has also brought on board chef Heman Tan as its chief culinary officer.
Mr Tan, 48, will oversee the production line, improve menus and assist in developing new menus and dishes, retail products and ready-to-eat meals.
He is known as "Iron Man Chef", having overcome dyslexia and a gangster past to become chef, ceramic artist and Ironman triathlete.
He was previously executive chef of local restaurant chain JP Pepperdine.
Why the push for bigger central kitchen operations?
"As everyone in the industry knows, labour can be a constraining factor. We want to standardise and fine-tune things (at central kitchen level), so that when it comes to the outlets, the staff can focus on other areas like service," Mr Tan told reporters last week.
The company's 5,000 sq ft central kitchen in Kampong Ampat provides the sauces and some of the dishes sold by the restaurant chain.
It also branched out into retail about two years back, and now makes Samsui Ginger sauce, XO sauce and Sambal sauce for the retail market. These products are sold through the restaurants as well as at NTUC FairPrice, Cold Storage and Isetan supermarkets.
Samsui Supplies and Services aims to drive productivity and growth, much in line with the Food Services Industry Transformation Map launched last week.
It is working on producing ready-to-eat meals that can be sold in supermarkets - these are targeted to be ready by the end of the next quarter.
On top of that, it is developing some pastry products to sell in the retail market.
It is also embracing technology. The firm is working on an e-commerce website. And in some of its outlets, orders are taken via iPads.
In a tight labour market, the company also tries to equip its employees with more skills.
"We encourage cross-department training. So, a person doing a certain process today could be doing a different one half a year later," said Mr Ang Kian Peng, a Samsui director.
"Productivity isn't just about automation, but how you improve your people, and give them more skills to be able to do more jobs," he said.
"A machine can only do so much; it's really the person operating the machine that is more important."
This article was first published on September 13, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.