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Kay Lee, trendsetter of hawkers selling recipes, now down to original store

Kay Lee, trendsetter of hawkers selling recipes, now down to original store
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint has been long known for their roasted meats — fatty char siew, crispy roast pork and roast duck. However, that was not why they made the headlines in 2012.

Instead, it was because the original owners, Ha Wai Kay and Betty Kong, wanted to sell their recipe and premises for $3.5 million. 

They made the front pages again in 2014, this time because they managed to find a buyer and sold their business for $4 million to electronics firm Aztech Group, whose chairman took just 10 minutes to seal the deal. At the point of the deal, it was reported that 10 Kay Lee restaurants would be rolled out over the next two years.

However, a recent check on their website shows that the brand is now down to just one store, the original outlet at 125 Upper Paya Lebar Road. There was still another outlet earlier this year at 116 Bukit Merah View, but a call to the main hotline confirmed that it has since shuttered.

Aztech Group declined to comment for this story.


One of Kay Lee's biggest outlets was at Suntec City and was the first one to open under Aztech's management, and could seat 100 diners in air-conditioned comfort. The brand continued to roll out more stores, but all, including the one at Suntec, have closed since. 

This turn of events is unexpected given the plans Aztech had shared with The Straits Times about how it would properly plan everything from the operations and marketing to sales and procurement back in 2014. This included hiring food scientists, to learn and document Kay Lee's secret recipes, and experienced industry veteran Sam Ng, who has overseen Chinese restaurant operations in major Singapore hotels. 

Since making the acquisition of Kay Lee, Aztech Group has delisted from the Singapore Exchange in 2017.

Former owners Ha and Kong were also convicted in 2016 and sentenced to four weeks' jail each for tax evasion. They were also fined $164,751.45 per person.

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