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It was January 2021 when premium casual dining spot, CC by Mel first opened. Founder Melanie Pong forecasted that parking the café in a small developing neighbourhood in Bukit Jalil was strategic, as residents there lacked food options.

Seating just 20 diners at a time, Melanie previously told Vulcan Post that CC by Mel garnered 350-400 orders/week, and brought in a rough revenue of RM200k a month.

Our first coverage of the startup’s story was met with countless salty comments on social media, with people doubting the numbers shared.

But just one year later, CC by Mel has shifted to a new, larger spot and is seeing even higher numbers. It is now a 15-minute walking distance from Pavilion Bukit Jalil (PBJ), leveraging the growing footfall in the area. 

“I am glad that we are one of the pioneers as many around here have gotten to know us already. Definitely not a mistake to start off in Bukit Jalil,” Melanie reflected.

“We now serve a higher range of food and an upgraded menu. We are moving into premium semi-fine dining [concept].” 

A steep upward growth

Expanding into a bigger space meant a bigger team, responsibilities, cash flow, and, of course, challenges for CC by Mel. 

“For the first few weeks, it was like a war,” Melanie described. With the restaurant now seating 70 pax, which is over three times more than its previous capacity, the seasoned team of 20 didn’t expect the crowd to be that huge. 

Natural lighting shining into the café / Image Credit: CC by Mel

Melanie had to hire more manpower, which wasn’t easy to find, so the company offered slightly above market rates to grow its team to 35 people.

Paying a visit to CC by Mel’s new spot myself, I can confirm that the restaurant was extremely busy during the evening. It was even fully booked, but the staff was able to squeeze the three of us in with no issues.

During the expansion, there wasn’t much time to spend on R&D before the new spot’s opening as it happened in tandem with the December and January festive seasons.

Melanie credits her team for coming up with a few dishes which have become CC by Mel’s signatures today.

Ocean Capellini and Mel’s Bowl / Image Credit: CC by Mel

“It was really costly to complete the new space as we had to make sure the interior [was] aligned with our premium dining direction, which is the modern Japanese style,” said Melanie. She added that the capital for CC by Mel’s new spot required over RM300K to complete, aided by bank loans. 

Blending food and nature

When I first discovered CC by Mel on Instagram in 2021, I was attracted to the plating of its dishes that were garnished with colourful edible flowers. Speaking to Melanie then, I found out that she was a former florist who liked infusing floral concepts into her food.

At the expanded restaurant, she’s taken it up a notch, and not just for the food. 

With a larger space, more plants have been added to the interior design. The large windows also show off views of the greenery outside the restaurant, bringing in natural sunlight during the daytime.

A MUJI-styled, nature-infused café / Image Credit: CC by Mel

It’s no surprise then that CC by Mel makes for a popular spot amongst the younger crowd who live on Instagram. The restaurant’s ability to blend nature with its already attractive food undoubtedly makes word of mouth marketing via photos and hashtags spread fast.

This has been reflected in CC by Mel’s current sales too. “With bigger space and higher sales turnover, we managed to hit above RM400K in revenue a month. But of course, we have high operating and ingredient costs now,” Melanie disclosed.

As for the food served, CC by Mel has increased its price points to fit its new concept. Previously carrying prices between RM22-RM68 for its dishes, most menu items now cost upwards of RM30.

Smoked salmon with potato fondant / Image Credit: CC by Mel

“Our team is really eager to improve the taste and quality of the food. Therefore, improving the dishes requires better materials which in the end increases the price of the food,” Melanie explained.

“Besides, running at the café’s food standard always gives us high competition and sometimes our customers do not appreciate our food. With that being said, I have decided to upgrade our menu so that we can serve better food and have lesser competition.”

The Trio Taco Box and Truffle Puddle Pasta I had

The price for CC by Mel’s signature Trio Taco Box has remained constant at RM68. Tasting this dish along with its Truffle Puddle Pasta (RM48), I personally felt that the food was delicious and fragrant while not being too complex in flavour, a concept that would be palatable to most Malaysians. 

Of course, I only tried two dishes as the portions were pretty generous—which justifies their prices to me—so I can’t speak for every item on the menu.

Blooming the business

After starting a cafe amidst the 2021 lockdown to now expanding quickly within a year, I asked Melanie about what has kept her going until today.

F&B is all about cash business and being pandemic proof. My goal is to open more outlets all over Malaysia covering dine-in outlets, grab-and-go kiosks, and also fresh seafood retail stores under [the company].

Melanie Pong, founder of CC by Mel

“That is what kept me going, building my brand out there hoping to reach out to the overseas market in a few years’ time,” she stated. “We will be going towards the franchising concept once we are stable!”

In the shorter term, Melanie is hoping to get her restaurant into one of the premium malls in Klang Valley by the end of the year. Currently, her team is already in discussions with the mall where Melanie hopes to begin placing her grab-and-go kiosks around.

  • Learn more about CC by Mel here.
  • Read other F&B-related pieces we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Melanie Pong, founder of CC by Mel

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)