They had gone to Tokyo as tourists, and returned to Singapore as entrepreneurs.
“We saw how people could sell premium food at affordable prices,” says Charles, co-founder of Gyu Nami.
“We thought that it was something we could learn from and adapt back to Singapore.”
Inspired, Charles, Aik Guan and Daniel began entertaining the notion of launching a new food brand.
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“We are all beef fanatics so we tried all the beef donburis (rice bowl) in Tokyo. After we came back, we immediately began testing.”
“That’s how we came up with the Wagyu Beef Donburi.”
A One Item Menu
Investing $90,000, the guys launched Gyu Nami… with only a single item on the menu.
Surprised? So were their family and friends.
“[They] were skeptical when they first found out that we only have 1 item on the menu.”
“They felt that people like variety and that we should have more to choose from,” admits Charles.
We believe in the dish’s uniqueness and that we want to do it to its best, to be the donburi specialist. That is also something we learnt in Japan.
All 3 co-founders take an active role in the business – “a combined effort”, as Charles puts it.
Charles and Aik Guan are both well-equipped with F&B experience and although Daniel has none, he makes up for it with his skills in sales and marketing.
“Together, we are well covered.”
In the 3 months prior to their opening, they worked every single day to complete R&D of the variety of beef types and Japanese rice.
“The wagyu is from Australia and the rice is from a Japanese supplier who imports it directly from his hometown of Niigata.”
“He returns 4 times a year to visit farms and to ensure the rice we get are of the highest quality,” Charles shares.
“And by buying everything at source and in bulk, we are able to keep costs low.”
Since launch, Gyu Nami has enjoyed the support from multiple food blogs and customers, and the team is “very grateful”.
“This proves that our efforts and sacrifices have been worth it.
And thankfully, all hiccups from delayed deliveries to an oven failure during opening week, were all “immediately resolved”.
$10 Hawker Food
“It isn’t easy to introduce a $10 dish in a hawker centre,” Charles confesses.
“The price tag did raise a few eyebrows amongst other hawkers and customers.”
However, many customers returned afterwards with confidence-bolstering compliments about the value for money and taste.
Given their costs however, they do have to accept lower profit margins. (Typical beef donburi bowls cost about $13+, and they aren’t necessarily wagyu.)
“It has always been our vision to serve premium food at an affordable price. [We do] have lower profit margins but we want everyone to be able to afford it.”
That is the kind of sacrifice we are willing to make.
From 200 to Outlet #2
Constricted by space and prep time, the team can only sell 200 bowls in the 4 hours they are open.
Given their success so far however, Charles reveals that they already have plans for expansion and franchising.
“We are now looking for the right location,” he says, jesting that they might even consider the Vulcan Post neighbourhood.
“Our main priority is consistency and to continue delivering quality beef donburi to our customers.”
“We want to build a brand, not only recognised in Singapore but across Asia, known for its premium food at affordable prices.”
Featured Image Credit: Charles Yoshida, Tidbitsmag