“I feel like I’m now working 24/7,” said Azrin about manning his food stall, Kapten Corner.
In the morning, he would start his day by going to the market to replenish ingredients for the day’s service.
The family then prepare the ingredients together before travelling from their home in Shah Alam to the stall in USJ11 by 1PM.
When they arrive, they’re met with the hungry lunch crowd, ready to devour a hot bowl of noodle soup and fruit rojak.
“If we’re lucky, we’ll be sold out early and can have ample time to rest before starting again the next day,” he said.
On days where business goes on till 10.30PM, the family would clean up the store and only arrive home at 11.30 PM.
“We will sleep like a log after that. I have lost some weight too since our opening day on October 23, 2020,” said Azrin.
Surviving From Savings
The suffering aviation industry amidst the pandemic has left its staff stranded, laid off with no monthly income to support themselves or families.
Azrin’s income had been badly impacted since the start of COVID-19.
I was no longer on a monthly salary basis. I was paid on a per-job basis due to the poor load factor as all international borders were closed.Azrin Zawawi, founder of Kapten Corner.
He would sometimes only work for one day out of the whole month and get paid for that single day.
This went on for months.
To survive, he and his wife had to break open the savings they’d gathered for their four children’s education.
Rumours were circulating amongst coworkers that retrenchments would happen at the start of November.
“It was then that my wife and I decided to do something that could put food on the table for the family,” he said.
The answer? Starting a roadside stall, Kapten Corner.
“Kapten Corner is symbolic due to my job as a Captain of an airline pilot. We thought it would be very catchy,” he said.
Cruising The Biz’s Success
It’s a comparatively simple business to start as it doesn’t call for a huge capital outlay.
“Should we fail, it wouldn’t be a big loss to us either,” said Azrin.
What would cost a whopping RM10,000 in capital was backed by resources his family has had for years.
“We already had most of the equipment that was bought for my mother-in-law’s Ramadan bazaar,” he said.
Tables, tents, and kitchen equipment were already in place.
All they needed to buy were some extra tables and chairs to seat patrons, and ingredients for the meals.
All was set in stone and ready for take-off.
Married Into A Line Of Cooks
As mentioned above, Azrin’s mother-in-law has operated her stall at Ramadan bazaars for several years now.
On top of that, his wife’s family had been in the school canteen business their whole lives.
Though, they’ve ceased doing that after her late father retired from service.
One of his brother-in-law currently operates a restaurant in Nilai. Another studied culinary and has served in JW Marriott Hotel’s kitchen in KL.
“Her younger sister is a self-taught cook too. So cooking is in the blood of the family,” he said.
An initial fear Azrin had was that it would take a long time for sales to start picking up, if at all.
“So much so that my mother-in-law had agreed not to get paid for her work until the business was OK,” he said.
The same applied to the owner of Boom Town Cafe, a friend of his wife’s who offered the space next door where Kapten Corner now parks.
She’d promised not to collect any rent if the business didn’t succeed.
But that wasn’t the case. From the get-go, business soared.
Friends were yearning to grab a bowl of Azrin’s dishes.
They’d already been fans of his mother-in-law’s cooking from when she sold her dishes at bazaars and online during the MCO.
With the 50% discount for Kapten Corner’s opening day, they didn’t hesitate to grab a taste of Kapten Corner’s dishes.
The stall sold out before night fell that day.
So in the end, he said, “Of course, we paid them all.”
Not Departing From Aviation Yet
Azrin has so far served 20 years in the aviation industry.
Getting into the F&B business was never part of his plan.
There was no slowing down the pandemic, and his initial hopes for the aviation industry recovering by the end of the year just didn’t happen.
“Now without a job, I have to do it otherwise how am I going to feed my family?” he asked.
“Being retrenched wasn’t really upsetting as the situation was just beyond anybody’s control. We have to face reality.”
Azrin does hope to one day go back into the aviation industry as flying has been his passion since young.
So much so that he turned down a scholarship under MARA to study Social Sciences in Australia.
Instead, he went to the Mofaz Flight Academy in Langkawi to learn to fly.
At 44, he believes he’s got much more to contribute.
With a Type Rating Examiner license next to a Commercial Pilot one, securing a job as a pilot when the industry heals won’t be a problem for him.
Confidently, he said, “Once the aviation industry booms again, I will just apply for a job. All I need to do now is to keep my current flying license intact.”
If this happens, he hopes that his family members will continue Kapten Corner.
This would leave an option open for him, should he choose to return to it in the future when he gets tired of flying, or if the aviation industry suffers again.
Featured Image Credit: Azrin Zawawi, founder of Kapten Corner