The founders of Wizards, a cafe in the serviced residence, Tribeca located in KL’s Golden Triangle, bid farewell to its followers as the restaurant ends its lease this July 31, 2021. They are now looking for interested parties to take over Wizards and continue its legacy.
“Wizards has seen 4 wonderful years, and the brand, concept, people, and products have come a long way,” they wrote in a Facebook post revealing their gratitude towards their supporters who’ve stuck by them amidst 1.5 years of the pandemic.
Keeping their heads above water
Like hotels, Tribeca was hit badly as it lost most of its short-stay residents which consisted of tourists and business travellers.
Director of Wizards, Lin Lee told us that before COVID-19, there used to be a healthy mix of local and foreign tourists who visited the cafe. There were even times when buses full of tourists poured into the cafe for coffee and a meal.
“With each MCO, we kept trying to keep our heads above the water. But being in the heart of KL and now with 1.5 years of no or limited dine-ins, and with the disappearance of [residents] in the service-apartment, tourists, and corporate walk-ins which were our main sources of income, we have to call it a day,” she added.
Since the first MCO, Wizards told Vulcan Post they registered a 90% decline in sales as they had yet to launch an online delivery presence. This amounted to a rough setback of RM100K within the first 2 months of 2020’s MCO alone.
Over the course of the year, 10%-15% of sales would slowly creep upward again as the business underwent pivots and hopped onto more delivery platforms.
But with delivery partners taking a 30% cut in commissions, the cafe fought hard to attract homebound customers by launching promotions, giveaways, and specialty menu items from baos to pastas.
A close-knit team
The Wizards team persisted and kept their heads high, initially brushing off MCO restrictions as a temporary hurdle they had to jump through. They brainstormed ideas, got used to cooking and serving in hot masks, and dealt with things as they came.
Over the past year, they’ve stuck by each other through difficult times involving a team member who contracted the virus, stubborn customers who refuse to wear masks, and dramatic pay cuts.
Wizards’ marketing team even started their own online talk show series to give the public insights into how the F&B industry was struggling during the pandemic. Co-founder Shaun, also headed its “Wizards home delivery” service that saw him and some other staff members personally deliver food around the Klang Valley.
These initiatives worked to a certain extent, but with other restaurants and home businesses hopping onto food delivery platforms too, it became too difficult to compete in such an oversaturated space.
“Then came RMCO, MCO 2.0, MCO 3.0… It was relentless! Our cash reserves were depleting, pay cuts needed to be made across the board and soon it had been a year of sitting down staring at empty tables and chairs and waiting for the GrabFood machine to buzz,” recounted a defeated Lin Lee.
As staff members were kept in the loop on the business’s accounts and made aware of the losses Wizards was making on the daily, 2 options were presented to them:
- To let some team members go, or
- Restructure the business so everybody received equal pay in a profit-sharing model.
Upon taking a vote, 90% voted for equal pay so that everyone could stay; the team didn’t want to leave a single person behind.
“This touched us immensely as it really depicted how strong the team spirit was—a high-ranking chef was prepared to take home the same amount of pay as a steward to keep the team together during this tough time,” Lin Lee explained.
They saw the end coming
When MCO 2.0 hit, the possibility of a closure was already apparent to Wizards’ 5 co-founders, Ryan, Jason, Lin Lee, Shaun, and Kheong. Finally, MCO 3.0 was the tipping point.
Even after pumping in additional funds from their personal savings, its founders have exhausted their resources and cannot bear to fight another lockdown with no light in sight at the end of the tunnel.
Additionally, the opportunity to finally close down presented itself as the cafe was already nearing the end of its lease at Tribeca. It was by no means an easy decision for the co-founders to make, as Wizards was a reputable and profitable business in normal circumstances.
“In F&B, what makes us tick is talking to our customers, seeing them enjoy the food and appreciate the service and ambiance—with that taken away, the drive and motivation to keep going day by day was deeply affected.”
As cheesy as it may be, Lin Lee shared that the biggest loss suffered by their vibrant, excitable team, was their spirits.
Refocusing on personal matters
As they exit Wizards for good, Ryan, Kheong, and Lin Lee, who became first-time parents over the past year, will be devoting more time to their respective families.
Furthermore, post-Wizards, the co-founders will also be directing more attention to the growth of their other F&B brands. Namely, The Red Beanbag, headed by Kheong, and Yellow Brick Road, headed by Jason. Shaun will be embarking on a new project called ONŌ which serves specialty coffee and matcha.
In terms of whether they’ll ever come back to Wizards if it continues to thrive under new management, Lin Lee said, “You never know, but for now, we can safely say this is a final goodbye.”
- You can learn more about Wizards here, and they can be reached through 0122771298 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups we’ve written here.
Featured Image Credit: Wizards at Tribeca