Entrepreneur

TungLok Started As A Textile Store - Now This F&B Empire Is Worth S$30.1M With 35 Outlets

There is a high chance that most Singaporeans have dined in one of the restaurants under Tung Lok Group.

From TungLok Seafood to Dancing Crab and Slappy Cakes, the group has an impressive repertoire of restaurants in Singapore. It has also expanded to Indonesia, Japan, China and Vietnam.

Founded in the 1980s, the food and beverage (F&B) giant rapidly expanded to manage more than 35 prominent restaurants in Singapore and the region.

Besides its own outlets, the group has also acquired other brands such as Paddyfields Thai Restaurant and acquired the franchising rights for Garuda Padang Cuisine.

In 2001, TungLok Group was listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), and is currently worth around S$30.1 million.

Revolutionising The Food And Beverage Industry

tung lok singapore
Image Credit: TungLok Signatures

Tjioe Ji Nan, father of current executive chairman Andrew Tjioe initially ran textile business Oceaninc, but decided to diversify into the food industry when he realised that the opportunities there were better.

The Tjioe family’s first restaurant, Charming Garden, was opened in 1980. Charming Garden was where Andrew gained management experience after he graduated from the Oklahoma State University,

Described as a “keen gourmand with a strong interest in the restaurant business”, Andrew established the TungLok Group in 1984 with the opening of the Group’s flagship restaurant at Liang Court.

Indeed, the 62-year-old was not afraid to innovate and implement new F&B concepts in his restaurants.

The Tung Lok Shark’s Fin Restaurant in Liang Court was known as the first Chinese restaurant to employ European neoclassical decor. It also offered imperial and Confucian-style banquets prepared by chefs from China.

Despite the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, Tung Lok opened Club Chinois and House of Mao that year.

house of mao tung lok
House of Mao / Image Credit: Poole Associates

House of Mao opened in China Square Food Centre, and featured a series of Mao-themed decor and food from Hunan province. It was initially well-received, but was later replaced with Teahouse in 2001.

Andrew’s boldness has brought him great success, and he has more than 10 F&B-related awards under his belt. For one, he was awarded the ‘Singapore Restaurateur of the Year’ by Wine & Dine in 1997 and 2001.

At the World Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence in April 2005, he was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, in recognition of his innovative contributions to the restaurant industry in Singapore and abroad.

TungLok: “Happy Together”

tung lok andrew tjioe
Andrew Tjioe / Image Credit: The Peak Magazine

Before TungLok Group was listed, it was wholly family-owned.

The love for food seems to run in the blood of the Tjioe family, and in part contributed to the success of the firm.

After moving to Singapore from Jakarta in the 1970s, the elder Mr Tjioe took the family out every weekend to explore new dining options, which fuelled Andrew’s passion for gastronomy.

He is also known to rave about his mother’s Hokkien cooking, which contributed to his sophisticated palate.

Andrew’s sister, Jocelyn Tjioe, who is the Senior Vice President of the group, also started her career in TungLok at Charming Garden.

According to Jocelyn in an interview with Prestige, she started out as a personal assistant to the purchaser and worked her way up to her current position.

Aside from culinary know-how, the sibling duo also have strict values when tending to the business. Most recently, Jocelyn has made it a point to source from sustainable suppliers, driving sustainability from the top-down.

The group also became the first company in Singapore to join the Health Promotion Board’s drive to get F&B companies to replace sugar with healthier alternatives as part of its War On Diabetes campaign. 

Evidently, commitment to their customers is very important to the leaders of TungLok.

“[TungLok] means being happy together, and we are in the business of selling happiness,” said Andrew in an interview with The Straits Times.

“We need to make sure our customers are happy – only then shall we be happy.”

Featured Image Credit: TungLok Group

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