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Have you ever seen the same ads on Instagram multiple times across different days? That’s usually the case for me.

A while back, I kept getting suggestions for Guan’s, a cafe based in Sabah. So I tapped into the ad to see just how aesthetically pleasing the food was (the answer: quite). 

Image Credit: Guan’s

But when I got another ad with the same brand name, I found that it was another Guan’s. It sported a similar logo and colour scheme, but was based in the Klang Valley and had no mention of its Sabah twin. Even Googling the brand name itself only brought up talks of its PJ outlet. 

Confused, I reached out to Pua Jia Jian, one of the brand’s three founders to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Image Credit: Guan’s

Sharing old family recipes with the public

Long story short, my instincts were very wrong. 

Guan’s wasn’t franchising its business, nor was it getting ripped off by a competitor on the other side of Malaysia.

In truth, the three brothers (Jia Jian, Jia Jun, and Jia Ler) behind Guan’s just chose to expand it in Peninsular Malaysia. With PJ being quite a hotspot for cafes, they figured it would be a strategic bet to start there. 

But its story actually began in 2019 with roots in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. 

Image Credit: Guan’s

Hailing from KL themselves, Jia Jian shared that the idea to open Guan’s in Sabah came after his visit to East Malaysia. Finding the culture and its people interesting, the brothers decided to set up their own cafe there. 

The idea was to combine traditional and modern food under one roof, a concept that many cafes in Malaysia follow too. However, what sets Guan’s apart is its recipes. Jia Jian explained that a lot of their food come from old family recipes that have been passed down through generations.

The Pua brothers together with their father, Mr. Guan, who inspired the brand’s name.

“It’s nothing fancy, mainly comfort food that serves the whole family every day,” Jia Jian humbly said.

An example of this is its Kaya Butter Croissant (RM11.90). Made inhouse using the double-boiling method, their kaya is cooked on a low flame for eight hours. Jia Jian describes it as tasting just like the “old school grandma-styled kaya”. 

Image Credit: Kent Lee / Guan’s

Some other offerings you can find include nasi lemak, chicken chop, pasta, and local noodles like dry curry mee hoon. Food aside, though, Guan’s also prides itself on its coffee drinks. And for good reason.

From coffee beans to kaya toasts

You see, Guan’s happens to be the sister brand of Brew & Bread. It’s a coffee roaster staffed by certified baristas that opened in 2011 and serves specialty grade coffees. 

Based on its website, the brand offers high quality coffee with beans from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Jia Jian shared that they source all their green beans directly from farms.

Image Credit: Brew & Bread

Meanwhile, their team is made of people who have been on the judging panel at both regional and international levels, including the World Barista Championship, Taiwan Barista Championship, and Thailand Barista Championship. 

Brew & Bread was established in Kota Kemuning and is the brainchild of Jia Jian and his friend, Kok Thong. 

Image Credit: Brew & Bread

Back when they first started roasting coffee, Jia Jian previously shared with Bean Shipper that there weren’t many small roasters in Malaysia.

Hence, much of what they learnt was through the then-scarce information online and trial and error. And slowly, the roastery grew into a couple more outlets, each sporting a four-star rating on Google

So Guan’s is by no means their first rodeo in the F&B space. 

Image Credit: Guan’s

Not bothered by the saturated market

After seeing how well Guan’s picked up on Sabah, Jia Jian and his brothers chose to introduce the brand back in the Klang Valley.

Though, customers should expect to find slight differences in its East and West Malaysian menus. For example, the sambal they serve in Sabah is also slightly sweeter as it’s based on the taste buds and cooking styles of East Malaysia.

Image Credit: Guan’s

At the moment, Jia Jian and his brothers have actually taken a back seat in the operations of Guan’s. The team has grown quite a bit since they started and they trust their elected PIC (person-in-charge) to take care of the day-to-day operations. But to ensure standards are still met, they’ll frequently visit each outlet.

Guan’s also has a central kitchen to assist in food preparation. And no, the West Malaysian outlet and East Malaysian outlet don’t share the same central kitchen. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fresh or environmentally friendly.

Image Credit: Guan’s

All that said, Jia Jian acknowledged that there are many modern kopitiams mushrooming around the city and staying ahead of the game can be challenging. But he’s not too worried about it either.

“Competition from other brands is not a very big issue, as every brand carries their own identity as well as USP,” he stated.

Nevertheless, he finds that providing good customer experience through a nice meal, good service, and a comfortable atmosphere will help them to continue growing. He teased that there will be a couple more Guan’s popping up this year, so that more customers in the Klang Valley and Kota Kinabalu and enjoy their family’s recipe.

Image Credit: Guan’s
  • Learn more about Guan’s here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Guan’s

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

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