Entrepreneur

How Little Fat Duck's Lean Strategy Turned A Food Truck Into 8 Brick-And-Mortar Shops

  • Little Fat Duck is a chain of F&B outlets in the Klang Valley that serves affordable western meals such as pastas, chicken confit, and chicken meatballs, all of which are halal certified.
  • Starting as a food truck in 2014, Little Fat Duck now has eight separate outlets in malls around the Klang Valley.
  • According to co-founder Adel Ishak, Little Fat Duck’s success stems from their group’s decision to serve a small number of food items at highly competitive prices.

Carving out a space for oneself in Malaysia’s competitive F&B scene is no mean feat. Among the hundreds of competitors with similar offerings, it can be difficult to stand out from the pack.

But for local F&B chain Little Fat Duck, this success is already something that they have managed to grab for themselves. Many denizens in the Klang Valley will probably be familiar with the black and white branding.

It all started in 2014 when Subang local Adel Ishak and his partner Adi Ong decided to do something with an old caravan.

“Adi wanted to dispose of it, but I said that we should try to do something with it instead,” Adel said. “Even though we ended up failing to get a JPJ certification, Adi insisted on getting a lorry and trying out the business.”

So on they went with their idea, starting with a solitary food truck selling Western fare in areas around the Klang Valley, and slowly growing their reputation as one of the Klang Valley’s bargain foodie options.

Lean Menu, Fat Growth

Coming a long way since their inception four years ago, Little Fat Duck now operates a number of brick-and-mortar shops around the Klang Valley, with their food trucks now used mostly for events and catering services.

Currently, they can be found mainly in shopping malls such as Damen in Subang Jaya, One Utama, and Mytown Cheras.

Image Credit: Little Fat Duck

But despite their healthy growth, Little Fat Duck have chosen to stick with the strategy that has been key to their success—a lean product offering.

“At the start, keeping our menu lean was the easiest and the best way to go, and it still is,” Adel said. “Even now, we keep our menu lean and simple to stay true to what we do best.”

“We don’t want to become a jack-of-all-trades and end up not serving good food.”

True to that sentiment, Little Fat Duck continue to maintain a compact menu while at the same time retaining the offerings that helped them gain popularity and fans.

Among the items on their menu are familiar crowd-pleasers such as Bolognaise and Carbonara pasta, which all begin at RM6, and the more premium options such as Chicken Confit and Chicken Meatballs, which cost RM13.80.

Image Credit: Little Fat Duck

But for many of their customers, the main draw is the special daily deals on their pastas, where certain items on their menu go for just RM5 depending on the day of the week.

All these items—according to Adel—are halal and based on a mix of French/Italian recipes that were conceptualised by him and Adi to best please Malaysian taste buds at an affordable price.

“The reason we decided to go with French and Italian was because it’s a close substitute to rice which we Malaysians consume the most,” he said.

“Trends come and go but the one thing that we always want to be is a staple food like rice, that’s why our affordable price point has kept us relevant.”

Ugly Duckling Story

Discussing the challenges faced along the way, Adel recounted the struggles faced by Little Fat Duck during the early days of their operations.

From trouble with necessary paperwork, and having to work extremely long hours, to figuring out how to keep their food fresh in the hot Malaysian weather, the Little Fat Duck team have learned plenty about how to properly run an F&B business.

“All the challenges we faced in were a huge headache, but it was all needed,” Adel said. “At least we were able to learn in a controlled environment, and it was during our growth stage that we were able to fix our problems and learn.”

“It also helped a lot that we were able to meet plenty others along the way who were able to share their experiences and help us out.”

And all these learnings have even served to help Adel and his team brave through the recent economic pinch.

“The past two years have been a challenge, and the effects of GST and inflation have hit us pretty hard with our prices being so low and us being in malls and such,” he said. “We had to raise our prices after the GST hit, but because sales started to drop, we still had to maintain our daily specials of RM5.”

“Eventually, we invested in more machines to keep our costs low, and bought in bulk to get discounts.”

Pacing For The Future

Right now, Adel says that the Little Fat Duck team are trying their best to maintain their healthy growth by increasing brand recognition, which he thinks is extremely important to a brand’s success.

“When the business first started, I had a lot of media contacts from my time doing public relations,” he explained. “That really helped us with getting write-ups and exposure.”

Image Credit: Little Fat Duck

“Now, we are still continuing to create awareness of our brand by using food trucks for events, and our social media channels are kept active while we still do things like interviews with old-school media.”

When asked about Little Fat Duck’s plans moving forward, Adel said that there were many plans in the works, all of which are to follow the same pace that has worked out so well for him and his team thus far.

“We’re not one of those overnight successful fab foods that made a ton of money at the start,” he said.

“Yes, we have made some losses due to some bad decisions, but otherwise our business growth through the years has been pretty stable.”

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Feature Image Credit: Little Fat Duck

 

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