Old Chang Kee sets its sights on England

Old Chang Kee sets its sights on England
Home-grown chain Old Chang Kee will debut in the United Kingdom with an outlet in central London in the second half of this year.
PHOTO: @oldchangkeeuk Instagram

Londoners will soon be able to get a taste of Old Chang Kee's iconic Hainanese-style curry puffs, along with other local favourites.

Home-grown chain Old Chang Kee will debut in the United Kingdom with an outlet in central London in the second half of this year.

The location is still not confirmed, as the team is still sourcing for a shop space that "receives high footfall"; but most likely, it'll be a cafe that is at least 500 square-feet in size.

According to an article by The Straits Times, this London outpost is a joint venture between the chain and Sandra Leong, a 35-year-old Singaporean who has been living in London for the past six years.

She approached the chain mid-last year with the idea of bringing its curry puffs to the UK as she finds herself always missing the food back home.

"The British love a good curry as much as they love a good pastry. The curry puff is an iconic Singaporean snack that is a marriage of these two great things. London is also such a melting pot of international cuisines, so we know there's a place for Singaporean food here," she said.

Good Response From Londoners

Old Chang Kee organised a pop-up event in Kentish Town, north-west London, two weeks ago to test waters; and the response was "overwhelming", according to Old Chang Kee's group financial controller, Song Yeow Chung.

The curry puffs were sold out within four hours each day, and a total of about 1,200 puffs were snapped up in the two-day event.

On taking the Singapore curry puff brand to London, Song says, "With a strong Indian population in London, diners there are familiar with curry dishes in the many Indian, Thai and Japanese eateries. We can offer something different with our Hainanese curry."

To ensure that the quality of the pastries stays consistent, a team from Old Chang Kee will be based in London for two weeks to transfer know-how of the cooking process and operations.

The curry paste, which is made from a secret blend of spices here, will be shipped to London regularly.

Like the curry puffs in Singapore, those in London will follow the same semi-automated cooking process. The dough and filling will be made in a central kitchen, but the puffs will be sealed by hand and fried in the shop.

According to Song, prices of the food at the upcoming outlet will be largely similar to those at the pop-up. At the pop-up, the price of a curry puff started at £2 (S$3.50) and the curry chicken rice set was £6.

Sounds pricey, considering that their curry puffs are only sold at S$1.50 here.

However, Song feels that this price increase is necessary due to additional labour and rental costs, as well as shipping costs of the curry paste.

Besides London, Old Chang Kee also plans to open outlets in other cities, including Manchester and Birmingham.

Rapid Expansion Despite S$2.1 Million Loss In Q4

Despite their expansion plans to the West, it was surprising to note that the curry puff chain has posted a loss of S$2.1 million for the fourth quarter ended March 31, 2017.

This is in contrast to a net profit of S$1.09 million a year ago.

In spite of the loss, their revenue for the fourth quarter rose 8.7 per cent year on year to S$19.23 million. For the full year, revenue increased 6.1 per cent to S$78.35 million but net profit fell 64.9 per cent to S$1.75 million.

This means that although Old Chang Kee grew its sales in the fiscal year, its profit largely fell due to high operating lease expenses (rental), as well as high labour and raw material costs.

Commenting on their plans in the region, Old Chang Kee said that it will be integrating its factory in Iskandar Malaysia and its expanded factory facilities in Singapore at Woodlands Terrace in the coming months.

"These will provide the group with a platform to expand its product range and grow its business both locally and regionally."

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