If you ask me for restaurant recommendations in Melaka, I’ll give a perfunctory introduction to spots serving chicken rice balls, Nyonya cuisine, and satay celup. But one of the specific cafes I always suggest to visitors of my hometown is The Daily Fix.
Tucked in the back of a souvenir shop, smack-dab in the middle of Jonker Street, The Daily Fix opened its doors in 2014. Like most third-wave cafes, it features brunch items on its menu alongside good coffee.
Did you know: Third-wave coffee is a movement in coffee marketing emphasising high-quality beans. This means the beans are traceable, carry specific flavour notes, and have lighter roast profiles.
To me, The Daily Fix has been a mainstay in Melaka’s F&B scene for years, acting as a source of inspiration and reference for similar cafés that have popped up.
But for owners Julian Yeo and Sung Soo Teng, The Daily Fix wasn’t really created to change the scene in Melaka. They simply wanted to offer what they had enjoyed in Australia, which was well-brewed espresso coffees.
Going with the flow
Neither Julian nor Soo Teng actually had any experience in food or business. The couple wasn’t all that confident, but they wanted to make the most out of their opportunity.
“We did not have a business plan, we had no projections for the next few years,” the founders confessed. “It was very foolish even but thankfully, we made it through.”
They may not have had a plan, but they had an idea. They wanted a speakeasy-style café that complements the souvenir shop at the front, which belongs to Julian’s mum.
The couple attended coffee classes by Barista Guild Asia, which not only taught them coffee knowledge and theory, but also gave them a network of coffee friends.
“We were doing it in a very organic manner,” they shared. “We learnt as we go, we made many mistakes, and we listened to customers.”
Of course, credit must be given to their family as well.
“This could only happen thanks to the affordable rent given by our dear aunt,” they said. “Not forgetting the strong support from mum with her lovely cakes and encouragement that allowed us to push through.”
Mixing family with business
From the get-go, Julian and Soo Teng has always brought in the family element to their business.
Before the café, Julian’s mum ran a souvenir business in the space, though it was deteriorating and difficult to manage.
But there was a small space in the back that Julian’s mum would occasionally use as a café. So, the couple came up with the idea to take over that back portion and convert it into a permanent coffee shop. They managed to convince Julian’s mum, and the rest is history.
“Where The Daily Fix currently occupies was part of the souvenir shop,” Julian and Soo Teng explained. “When we first started, you could look at the souvenirs or products as you sipped your coffee. We were fitting in small tables and chairs here and there as long as there was sufficient space.”
They have since expanded to occupy more space, though the souvenir shop remains today.
Julian’s mum also gave The Daily Fix one of its most iconic dishes, which is its pancakes.
“We are very fortunate my mum loves to bake so it’s a perfect outlet for her,” Julian shared. “Until now, most of our signature cakes are baked by my mum.”
On top of that, the couple’s relatives have also helped by providing second-hand furniture to outfit the eatery. This allowed for a minimal startup cost.
“We upgraded as we go,” the couple explained. “When we first started, we did not go through any major renovations.”
The most expensive thing they bought at the time was a coffee machine that cost RM30K, rendering them “pretty much broke”. Today though, perhaps it’s safe to say that it’s given them a satisfactory return on investment.
Diversifying the company
Instead of opening more branches of The Daily Fix, Julian and Soo Teng wanted to try out other menus and create new experiences for customers.
“We want it to be fresh and exciting for ourselves as well, at least for now,” they shared.
After opening The Daily Fix in 2014, they started another café named Sin See Tai in 2016. Located in Kampung Jawa, Sin See Tai also houses The Daily Fix Coffee Roaster and The Curious Bakers, a roastery and bakery respectively.
In 2019, they introduced Sharing Plates as a sister café of The Daily Fix. The aesthetics of Sharing Plates is more modern than The Daily Fix, which features a vintage concept.
All the new ventures have been opened in Melaka, as the couple prefers to oversee the outlets themselves. It’s not currently a priority for them to expand to other states.
Not all sunshine and rainbows
Given the location of the cafes, many of their patrons are actually tourists from other states. So, when interstate travel was restricted, the business saw a 70% to 80% dip in revenue.
Travel restrictions also caused problems with supply. The café used to source sourdough bread from KL, but nothing could be sent down during the MCO. So, Soo Teng had to try her hand at baking sourdough for the cafes.
“Those were dark times,” Julian and Soo Teng recalled. “We barely survived and we could only minimise our losses.”
They were able to do that by focusing more on the bakery, launching events such as Donut Weekend and Bagels on Wednesday.
As for the cafés, they had to rely on food delivery platforms and offered set menus and discounts. They also tried a more affordable range of Malaysian food, but it didn’t work out.
The couple is hoping that their newest outlet, Kin by The Daily Fix, will be successful. An ongoing challenge is also staffing, which they will need to overcome in order to open full hours for all their outlets.
“We just have to be careful as it is still very uncertain times,” the couple finished on a realistic note.
As a long-time fan, I appreciated their open sharing of their struggles the past few years. As a Malaccan, I’m proud to see their fighting spirit.
Personally, I look forward to seeing Kin revitalise The Daily Fix family, and you’d best believe that I’ll be dropping by whenever I head back to Melaka again.
Featured Image Credit: The Daily Fix