Founder of LoFi
In this article

Starting a business isn’t an easy journey. It was extra challenging for 27-year-old Bryan Liew, who launched his dessert cafe LoFi Bar at the height of the pandemic, with no prior food and beverage (F&B) experience. 

He had graduated with a dual degree in Digital Marketing — one from Malaysia, and another from the UK. He started out his career as a Retail Marketer in 2017 before climbing the ladder to take up the role of a Senior Operations Manager, and eventually quit his job on the first day of the ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown.

I noticed no matter how advanced technology is, or how busy a person is, everyone still needs to have a proper meal. Despite my background in the digital sector, I saw an opportunity in the F&B industry, [so I] quit my 9-to-5 job and gave it a shot.

– Bryan Liew, founder of LoFi Bar

He stepped away from the digital marketing sector and began his stint as a foodpanda rider with an aim to experience more of Singapore’s food culture, using it as a platform to frequent hawker centres and eateries in lesser known areas. This experience also propelled him to establish his own cafe.

Why make coriander ice cream?

Located at Hougang area, LoFi Bar was established in April 2021, a month before ‘circuit breaker’ started.

Bryan’s purpose behind launching his cafe was simple: to fulfil Singaporeans’ habit of “eating and hunting for food” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To create a feel-good concept, Bryan plays LoFi music in the cafe — hence the name — to help his customers relax. He also combined it with Singaporeans’ love for dessert, launching only waffles, gelato, and coffee as part of the menu.

When the lockdown happened, Bryan reverted to his digital marketing skills and dug deep into consumer research to find out what he could do to attract more customers. One strategy was innovating the menu with unique food like coriander gelato and mala waffles.

lofi bar Mala waffles
LoFi’s Mala waffles / Image Credit: LoFi Bar

Our coriander gelato was just a fun idea. I was just asking a friend what’s their favourite flavour of ice cream, and one of them jokingly said coriander. I took it personally, and felt it could be something that would go viral. It could also turn into a unique selling point (USP) for LoFi, especially since we were new and looking to create a presence.

– Bryan Liew, founder of LoFi Bar

The cafe’s Mala Chicken Waffle was part of its menu expansion — sweet, spicy, and savoury all in one bite. However, the coriander gelato still stands as its best-selling menu item today, with customers travelling from as far as Jurong to try it.

Using past experiences to overcome obstacles

Exterior of LoFi bar hougang
Exterior of LoFi / Image Credit: LoFi

Bryan’s lack of F&B experience was one of his key challenges when establishing LoFi. Most of his time and effort went into research and learning on-the-job. He would conduct a survey with every walk-in customer, and take into consideration all their feedback. 

“My latte art, for example, I only had one week of practice before LoFi’s launch. In the beginning, I had to apologise to customers for the poor art. But if you’re doing the same thing everyday, it only gets better. The only way is up,” he reflected.

The next obstacle for him was being the newcomer in the neighbourhood. During COVID, LoFi was significantly affected by the dine-in restrictions — it happened twice within the span of four months.

He knew that his cafe could not rely solely on foot traffic, and that he needed the help of food delivery platforms to boost their sales. After all, the pandemic had brought about a shift in consumer behaviour, with food delivery becoming the new norm.

There was a day when we opened for a whole day, and there was only one customer. The ringing sound from foodpanda was the one and only thing we were waiting for, [and] food delivery sales back then were enough to cover our daily expenses.

– Bryan Liew, founder of LoFi Bar

Drawing from his own personal experience as a former foodpanda rider, he understood the difficulties faced by riders and decided to make food collections at his cafe as seamless as possible. Food delivery orders are given a priority, and all orders — especially those with drinks — are packed well to prevent spillage during travel.

A never-ending growing process

The most common question Bryan gets to date is why he launched a business during the pandemic.

Like the old saying goes: start a business when we’re young [and] have nothing to lose. I saw the opportunity and decided to go for it. I never doubt myself — I always go all out when I want to do or achieve something; even if it fails, at least I tried.

– Bryan Liew, founder of LoFi Bar
Menu at LoFi
Menu at LoFi has grown from just desserts / Image Credit: LoFi

Bryan had invested around S$100,000 into the business so far. The early days was especially hard for their bottomline, especially with the tight COVID restrictions then.

In fact, LoFi’s worst-performing month was during the first ‘no dine-in’ period in June 2021. Back then, its sales weren’t even enough to cover its rental fees. Although the business is still not yet profitable, Bryan found it encouraging that its sales figure has skyrocketed to 300 per cent thus far.

Over time, he trusts that LoFi’s brand awareness will continue to grow and reach bigger audiences, and eventually expand. Moving forward, Bryan hopes to be able to find someone who is able to replicate what he does for the business in order to bring LoFi to the next level.

“I have only two hands and limited capabilities. If I’m able to find a passionate candidate, I’ll definitely expand. This could be to open new stores, to franchise LoFi, or even supply to big players or supermarkets,” shared Bryan.

“LoFi is still very new. I don’t want to look too far. I just want to focus on this moment, bring more smiles to those who visit, and leave everything else to fate.”

Feature Image Credit: LoFi Bar

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

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