Kevin Khoo Bistro is proud to be a restaurant that’s “born in a time of social and economic adversity and uncertainty.”
Indeed, the new F&B joint that opened in September this year was founded with a strong mission to help grounded cabin crew through the pandemic.
The aviation industry was one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and cabin crew have been laid off in record numbers.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) previously announced that it would cut around 4,300 positions across its three airlines: Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot.
Additionally, more than 6,000 of the 27,000 staff from the Singapore Airlines have taken up no-pay leaves since March 2020.
These unfortunate news prompted Ruben Brandon and four other former and current SIA cabin crew members to start the bistro.
An Initiative To Help The Cabin Crew Community
If you were wondering whether “Kevin Khoo” is the founder of the restaurant, he in fact does not exist. The name is actually a wordplay on “cabin crew”.
Co-founder Ruben previously worked as a cabin crew with SIA for over 10 years, before leaving a few years back to pursue entrepreneurship.
During the circuit breaker, 38-year-old Ruben started the Facebook group Cabin Crew United with six other current/former cabin crew and business owners.
He built a community of more than 2,100 aviation related members who used the group to “come together to find support, share memories, and have a good laugh.”
Elliot Chia, a business owner and a long-time friend of Ruben had the idea to open a bistro to help cabin crew who were displaced, providing them with employment as they transitioned into new careers.
The two decided to collaborate and open Kevin Khoo Bistro, after just a month of planning, the restaurant had its soft launch in September.
The duo invested approximately S$150,000 into the venture.
Ruben told Vulcan Post that Kevin Khoo Bistro was a project that was launched with support from the cabin crew community, who helped with the naming, branding, and operations support.
Currently, 80 per cent of its staff are current or former cabin crew.
A Menu Inspired By Flying
Kevin Khoo Bistro is currently still on its soft launch menu. However, the menu is a well-curated one.
Ruben shared that the menu is mainly a collection of food items the crew enjoyed when visiting various destinations while flying with the airlines.
For example, the Pink Tiger Prawn Pasta (S$22) was created in remembrance of one that cabin crew members frequently had in Frankfurt, Germany.
It also features dishes fondly remembered by former and current cabin crew from their flights. Prices for Kevin Khoo’s mains range from S$8 to S$38.
Since Kevin Khoo Bistro is family friendly, it will also be unveiling a children’s menu in lieu with its grand opening on December 21.
The team is also focused on creating a cosy and friendly environment, which is the right balance for all groups who visit the restaurant.
Turning A Lifeless Space Into A Bustling Bistro
Despite being a bustling bistro now, Ruben shared that starting a restaurant during the pandemic had its fair share of challenges.
Firstly, the restaurant’s location at Shenton Way “might not have been the best place”, since footfall was very low due to the location being remote.
Furthermore, adhering to safe distancing measures means that the restaurant is unable to operate at full capacity and maximise its revenue.
However, Ruben and his co-founders “loved the feel of the place, and decided to forge ahead despite challenges.”
He shared that the restaurant has received an outpouring of support from its community, as well as the public.
In fact, the restaurant is fully booked for dinner until the end of December.
Different companies have also stepped forward to help them out in whatever ways possible, such as sponsoring the staff uniforms.
In the long term, the team plans to expand and open more branches of Kevin Khoo based on different concepts, while maintaining the highest quality of food and service.
Featured Image Credit: Kevin Khoo Bistro / @aaronpasaoalee on Instagram