[Update on 7 September 2021]
Local burger joint FatPapas announced today (Sept 7) that it will be shutting down its flagship outlet soon at Bali Lane on September 12.
At its peak, FatPapas had five outlets in Singapore, including a regional one in Kuala Lumpur.
It’s not clear why FatPapas decided to shutter, though Covid-19 might be a key contributing factor. The pandemic has negatively impacted the F&B industry, especially with dining in restrictions.
For now, what’s clear is that FatPapas has promised that there will be “more exciting joints to come.”
A testament to its popularity, Fatboy’s has 6 outlets in Singapore.
Started by brothers Bernie and Kennie Tay in 2009, Fatboy’s is a casual burger joint that serves classic all-American fare, ranging from hotdogs and fries, to milkshakes and floats.
For local rapper, actor and host Sheikh Haikel, their Country Fried Steak was the star dish that won over his heart (and tastebuds).
The 44-year-old sang nothing but praises for the golden, crispy slab of breaded beef ribeye steak drizzled with cheesy bechamel sauce.
“It was culinary love at first taste!” he commended.
In a separate interview with The Straits Times, Haikel recounted a time when he ate seven to eight servings of the Country Fried Steak during his birthday party at Fatboy’s.
As if that wasn’t enough, he made all his guests order the same dish too.
While he admits that it is wrong to consume from a non-halal outlet, Haikel said that as a long-time friend of Bernie, he knows that “most of the meat it uses are from a halal supplier“.
It Took Him 7 Years To ‘Woo’ Fatboy’s
A clear fanboy of Fatboy’s, Haikel didn’t want the Muslim community to miss out on their delicious food.
His wife in particular — fellow celebrity Anna Belle Francis — never had a chance to try it because it was not halal-certified.
It took Haikel a good seven years to convince the Fatboy’s founders to open a halal offshoot of the joint.
FatPapas was eventually born — a result of a $150,000 investment by the couple, Bernie, and other friends that include popular deejay duo ‘The Muttons’.
‘The Muttons’ — made up of Justin Ang and Vernon A from Class 95 — is also an investor of Fatboy’s. Their third and latest F&B venture is Fook Kin, which is founded by the same people behind Roast Paradise.
Tapping Into The Halal Market
There is a massive demand for halal food in Singapore, so the idea of FatPapas was to take all that was great about the Fatboy’s experience and make it halal.
According to Haikel, FatPapas is an “identical concept of Fatboy’s, but made halal.”
They substituted all the non-halal ingredients to halal ones (for instance, bacon is replaced with turkey bacon), and all the meat they use is derived from a halal source.
Despite these changes, Haikel insists that the taste stays true to the original Fatboy’s.
With this halal version of Fatboy’s, the founders aim to have both non-Muslim and Muslim friends sitting together at the same table enjoying the same, good food.
Broke Even In A Year
They opened their first outlet at Bali Lane in 2017 to massive fanfare, drawing long queues with a waiting time of up to three hours during dinner time.
FatPapas grew wildly popular, and this is no mean feat considering that Haikel had no prior experience in the F&B industry.
This venture actually marked his first foray in the F&B industry, after being in the local entertainment industry for over 20 years.
Although the transition from dabbling in music to the food industry might be a huge leap for some, Haikel seemed to ease into it easily.
The self-proclaimed foodie said that it’s “in [his] nature to feed people” and that he prides on serving “only the best” to people who support him (his customers).
It is also thanks to his customers’ ardent support that FatPapas “broke even in the first year of business”.
Responding to the naysayers who think that Haikel is simply using his celebrity status to boost business, the father of three said: “It’s my restaurant and I love the food a lot.”
“I work on this everyday — on the food, the well-being of my staff, the daily operations, and the future of the business. And hey, it’s my face on the logo. I got to make it good,” he added.
Expanded to 5 Outlets Within A Year
FatPapas’ flagship outlet continuously drew snaking long queues, prompting Haikel to open a second outlet at Joo Chiat (now defunct).
He didn’t just stop there though.
Haikel went on an expansion spree and opened another three outlets in Singapore malls, namely Waterway Point, Northpoint, and Century Square.
He also received a franchise offer, which sparked the launch of FatPapas’ first overseas outlet in Kuala Lumpur.
Within the span of one year, FatPapas has rapidly grown to a total of 5 outlets.
The sole purpose of this expansion was to “manage the queues and better serve customers,” explained Haikel.
Although long queues are often seen as a good business sign, Haikel also saw it as a challenge.
The opening of other outlets actually helped to ease the long queues and reduce waiting times. During peak hours, the typical two-hour queue is shortened to a maximum of 45 minutes.
The implementation of online reservation platforms also helped a great deal.
Making Plants Taste Impossibly Like Meat
Most recently, Fatboy’s and FatPapas have collaborated with Silicon Valley startup Impossible Foods to serve plant-based burgers.
Fatboy’s and FatPapas’ new Impossible Menu features four different dishes made with the plant-based product.
The mind-boggling thing is that their 100% plant-based patty looks, smells, and tastes just like real meat.
It even ‘bleeds’ like a rare beef burger, with a juicy pinkish-red centre.
This plant-based meat is actually made of four major natural ingredients: soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil and natural flavours.
While this meatless alternative helps reduce animal agriculture and ease the global demand for beef, another good thing about it is that it has zero cholesterol, making it a healthy option.
Impossible Foods has teamed up with 7 other F&B joints in Singapore, including Potato Head, Park Bench Deli, Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsey, and Cut By Wolfgang Puck.
FatPapas is the only halal partner here, but there should be no cause for concern as the Impossible Burger patty is certified halal in the United States.
According to Haikel, FatPapas’ sales have improved with the introduction of the new Impossible Menu.
“The trend of plant-based meat consumption is on the rise across the region [and] keeping abreast with [such] food trends has helped us get ahead of the competition in addition to meeting the needs and wants of our consumers,” he said.
“We’re excited to have Impossible Foods on board with us as their product really speaks to meat-lovers like us. Impossible makes meat that does not compromise on taste, texture and nutrition, [and that is] something we stand for at FatPapas.”
Sharing future business plans, Haikel said that they are looking at expanding their central kitchen to better meet the demands of their outlets.
This expansion would allow them to supply their prepped food, sauces and other food supplies to all their outlets.
In addition, Haikel is also keen on exploring catering services and host more outdoor events.
When asked to share a business mantra, Haikel said: “If you have a great idea, don’t be afraid to work on it.”
“Most importantly, always be prepared to fall. Have a good plan to fall back on and with all the strength you have, always climb back up. It’ll be worth it.”
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post / FatPapas