Entrepreneur

With 25 Years Of Experience, This F&B Veteran Returns To PJ To Prove Failing Isn't Fatal

While Ho Kim Loon, or Mr. Ho, is not a new face in the realm of serving up porky delights here in Klang Valley, his newest project The Butcher’s Table in PJ was a welcome return for meat lovers here.

While the Malay Mail article written about Mr Ho’s The Butcher’s Table brought in new clientele to the business, a lot them also happened to be Mr. Ho’s old clients coming back to pig out on his food—carrying memories of his previous venture from about 10 years ago.

Before running the The Butcher’s Table, he was primarily known for running Mr Ho’s Fine Foods at Bangsar Shopping Centre, starting back in 1997.

Mr Ho’s Fine Foods was his initial attempt at running his own meat business after joining Euro Deli as a butcher in Klang.

Unfortunately the shutters on his first venture had to fall in 2009 because Mr Ho lacked business expertise. This caused him to fly off to East Malaysia to try his luck, where he continued to work in F&B.

The opening of Mr Ho’s Fine Foods at KK Times Square, Sabah in 2012 / Image Credit: Faith Nathene

“I reckon that other than great customer skills, it is crucial to ensure that management and human resources are well-organised and monitored too,” said Mr. Ho about the experience.

“It may seem easy to start up a business, but to maintain one is another challenge. It’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from the past and rectify them.”

Now back in Klang Valley, he runs the business with his wife Melinda, and daughter Tiffany who left her job in Singapore to help the family with business. His son Kent also helps whenever he can.

His new journey towards the The Butcher’s Table was also made easier because he wasn’t starting from scratch. He already had quite a bit of equipment that he needed to process the meats, and some of the equipment needed for the restaurant were passed to him from industry connections.

Mr. Ho honed his tastebuds from travelling the world, while listening to the advice of his customers with refined palates. 

After a trip to Selfridges in London, he decided to come back to experiment with making his own salted beef—and that quickly became a hit during his BSC days.

Even though he’s touched 55 this year, Mr Ho also revealed to us that he isn’t shy about taking advice from his old and returning clientele.

Image Credit: The Butcher’s Table

“These are the kind of customers that have knowledge about food. Even back when I was in BSC, they are the ones who sometimes educated me on all of the good, premium ingredients.”

“We do have new customers that don’t know about me, maybe the younger generation. Even if they come and support us, they might not get used to the taste. Of course, we try our best to keep delivering food that is high quality.”

The difference in taste—according to Mr. Ho—is due to the fact that they brine and they cure all of the meats themselves. For instance, the pork knuckle that they serve takes 10 days to cure.

“It needs a lot of time, patience and passion. When people hear that it’s homemade, that’s when they hear that it’s worth trying out. “

Part of Mr. Ho’s joy in operating his restaurant now is from seeing familiar faces return.

“I can see a lot of customers from the old days all come in. It feels like a big reunion to be seeing all the familiar faces! Every day I’m getting people that I haven’t seen in 10 years.”

When asked about why so many of them have returned to him, Mr. Ho told us that it is all goes back to the one-of-a-kind taste that only he can serve up.

Image Credit: The Butcher’s Table

Mr. Ho feels that the F&B industry here in KL hasn’t changed that much since he left.

“But I noticed many tend to go to aesthetically pleasing places for their exciting food presentation and interior or exterior designs. ”

But Mr. Ho does think that the quality of Malaysian food has declined over the years.

“One of the reasons is due to the difficulty to get locals to work in the F&B industry which requires long working hours. Hence we depend too much on foreign workers.”

“Many places do a lot of outsourcing. In my case, I take care to have quality control over my products, be it in the kitchen or customer experience.”

After all his experience, he shared the secret sauce to retaining customers.

“I must say customer experience and the quality must be the priority of your business. Management skills (internal and external) must be effective too.”

He and Tiffany strive to maintain the personal touch for each customer despite the surge that they’ve gotten.

In the end, he summarised his learnings to it being all about “serving good food, and doing it with a smile”.

Despite Mr. Ho’s extensive experience, The Butcher’s Table is still a newly minted business, and they’re not going to rest easy despite having the weight and knowledge of the years behind them.

They’re seeing a full house regularly, but they still have a lot more room to grow.

“We’re still very early in our business and we’re still finding our feet. We’re still in the process of fine-tuning the business from a production standpoint, from a service standpoint, all of that.”

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