Though I’m allergic to seafood, it’s never been something I’m strict about as the enjoyment I get from eating crabs, clams, prawns, and the like are all worth the mild side effects to me. Plus, the opportunity to indulge in such delicacies comes by rarely, perhaps once annually over reunion dinners on Chinese New Year.
But that’s not the case for 3 entrepreneurial friends in their 20s: Scott, Lynnneve, and Justin. Being close friends who indulge their mutual love for seafood more frequently, they realised that crabs sold in restaurants tend to be overpriced.
With a vision to provide customers with good quality crabs at a more affordable price point, they each invested RM2,000 as capital to launch TalkCrab. It’s an Instagram-based business delivering fresh and cooked crabs to customers in Malaysia.
Justin has since left TalkCrab, and the business is now run by its 2 remaining co-founders, Scott and Lynnneve. If their names sound familiar to you, it’s because they were also behind lunárr, a healthy mooncake business to leverage the Mid-Autumn Festival in August.
Fishing in an ocean of knowledge
Before TalkCrab’s launch in October 2020, the team first had to source crab suppliers and turned to Facebook and Google as a starting point. They then asked around for crab supplier contacts from friends and family, the latter of who also run their own F&B ventures.
The team’s inexperience with crabs came as a huge hurdle in the beginning. In an interview with Vulcan Post, they shared that the suppliers were not keen on sharing their knowledge about picking the best crabs as it would threaten their business.
This is because not all crabs caught at sea are of good quality. When some suppliers sell them, they’d mix the bad crabs with good ones to be sold off in large batches.
“If everyone knew how to source good crabs, suppliers would face difficulties selling off the bad crabs,” Scott added. So, the team had to rely on their own research and visitations to multiple suppliers to physically feel each crab while comparing their qualities against different suppliers.
The mortality rates of crabs came as another struggle to the team. Crabs are only killed when TalkCrab receives orders from customers to maintain their freshness. That means that Scott and Lynnneve must keep these crabs alive upon receiving their supply from Indonesia.
With the high mortality rates of the crabs, they initially suffered huge losses as well, which was what led one of their founding members to leave the team.
“We weren’t earning much even though our selling price was at least RM100+. Our cost price is high and every dead crab is a loss for us,” Scott told Vulcan Post. “We also invested a lot of our profit to marketing agencies to manage our ads, design, and create posts for us. We need a high sales turnover in order to cover all our expenses.”
Filling up the delivery space
While there are plenty of seafood delivery services in the market today since the pandemic hit, Scott shared that this wasn’t the case last year, especially for businesses delivering crabs.
“During the lockdown, not many seafood restaurants set up their delivery platform yet and we were one of the first few that saw the potential in this industry. Although seafood restaurants are more experienced in F&B than us, they are new to the digital world,” he observed.
Already being social media savvy, it gave Scott and Lynnneve an advantage over the more traditional seafood restaurants.
Despite being a small brand competing with bigger-name seafood restaurants in the market, the team focuses heavily on branding themselves as a premium crab provider in the market.
For instance, instead of merely calling themselves a “crab delivery service”, they describe TalkCrab on Instagram as a “neighbourhood crustacean concierge”. On top of that, products are delivered in TalkCrab’s customised paper bags which the team hopes would create a perception of quality to their consumers.
The business also partners with social media influencers to help spread the word about TalkCrab, extending its reach to its target audience.
Weighing your options
In terms of TalkCrab’s affordability, its set menu comprising meat and roe crabs (which have smaller claws but more crab caviar) are generally priced between RM138 to RM338.
For example, one of TalkCrab’s offerings involves a set priced at RM148 which has 2 pieces of 400g meat crabs along with 6 pieces of mantou (deep-fried buns) to dip in your choice of sauce. In addition, customers could also add on their choice of 2 sides including clams, cuttlefish, tiger prawns, and mussels.
While its team claims to offer prices that are slightly lower than restaurants, this is hard to verify. The cost of crabs—or seafood in general—can change as they are subjected to daily catches and the restaurant’s availability of supply.
To add, it’s almost impossible to find the exact same listings when comparing crab offerings from various restaurants.
On GrabFood, Fei Fei Crab has a set for RM135.68, containing 4 pieces of 200g crabs with no sides. Lala Chong Seafood Restaurant offered single-piece 600g crabs for prices between RM100.70 to RM106, depending on your choice of sauce with no sides either.
It’s a small sample amidst the many more competitors out there, but these are the brands stating their prices that we could find. They also had listings that came the closest to TalkCrab’s RM148 set mentioned above.
The comparisons here are by no means definitive, as they still vary in offerings and contain different breeds of crabs which may affect its quality and meat-to-shell ratio as well.
At the end of the day, TalkCrab’s products could appear more worth it by brief comparison, as their crabs are often paired with other sides that would make the meal feel more whole.
Dreaming of a TalkCrab restaurant
Now a year into the business, things seem to be looking up for the team after their initial hurdles. Scott reported that TalkCrab is generating a 6-figure revenue per month.
With an 8-person team including in-house chefs, TalkCrab’s operations have moved out of their homes into a commercial shop lot to expand kitchen operations.
Scott and Lynnneve also have plans to open up a restaurant in the future while still maintaining TalkCrab’s delivery business. But first, in the nearer future, they will be adding more varieties of seafood onto their menu.
- You can learn more about TalkCrab here.
- You can read about more Malaysian F&B brands we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Scott and Lynnneve, co-founders of TalkCrab