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A few months ago in January, a café that appeared to be shutting down came across our radar. At the very least, it seemed to be relocating.

Called Scoby Cafe, it’s a spot serving up coffee and brunch, touting to be the first kombucha café in Malaysia.

On Instagram, the team had posted a series of images with the caption “last day of operation”, thanking their patrons for the past three years. “Been a great pleasure serving the Bukit Jalil neighbourhood/community,” they wrote in one image.

Given that messaging, imagine our surprise when a couple months later the café announced that they had reopened. In the same spot.

Curious about what happened, we reached out to learn more about Scoby’s story, straight from the founder’s mouth.

Bubbling up

Describing himself as “just another local dude from KL”, Chester Yong is the founder of Scoby.

After getting his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Management in Sydney, Chester had worked as a full-time barista for four years.

But once his visa expired, he made the decision to return to KL. This was right when the pandemic began, and he ended up being amongst the first batch of returnees to be placed in quarantine.

The cafe is pet-friendly / Image Credit: Scoby Cafe

At the time, the economy had been in a downturn, and there were few places hiring for his major. At the same time, Chester encountered his first “localised” kombucha at a café called Sunday Coffee & Cakes, which changed his mind about the beverage.

“My first impression of kombucha was in Australia, which is horrible, as it was so gassy that you can’t even drink it with your rice—you know how we Asians drink while we eat too,” Chester said. “The Malaysian way of making kombucha is so much more comfortable.”

Image Credit: Scoby Cafe

Hence, he founded his first kombucha brand called CHESTEA. It started out as an online business, but eventually the concept grew into what Scoby is today.

“I believe every barista dreams to own their own little café, hence the first kombucha café in Malaysia, ’cause why not right?”

The start of something new

Explaining the closure of Scoby earlier this year, Chester revealed that it was just for a renovation.

The decision to do so came down to the competitive market. Essentially, the team felt like an upgrade was needed to stay relevant.

But if so, why frame the upgrade as some kind of farewell?

“Well, it’s definitely one of our marketing strategies,” he admitted. “We all can tell nobody really cares if one shop is renovating, but in fact us posting like that gained us huge amount of publicity and attention.”

Image Credit: Scoby Cafe

He clarified that the announcement only mentioned that they were closing chapter one, rather than closing down entirely.

On top of that, regulars of the business would’ve noticed the signage put up about a month prior to the renovation period.

“People who thought we’re closing down definitely don’t come to Scoby as often, and that was the whole purpose of the post—gaining these people’s attentions.”

Image Credit: Scoby Cafe

The brand refresh also seemed to have attracted more customers, with a Google review mentioning that they had no idea there was even a “first chapter” there prior to the reopening.

Despite now being on to the second chapter, Chester said that nothing big has change in terms of the brand’s core philosophy and values.

Image Credit: Scoby Cafe

Rather, the refresh involves improvements more so than big changes. Aside from optimising their operations and adopting better practices for customer relations, they’ve also worked to update the space, switching up the seating and adding plug points to cater to their regulars.

Staying afloat

The Bukit Jalil area is home to many other F&B spots, though, making it quite the competitive zone for a café.  

Image Credit: Scoby Cafe

Chester himself describes the scene as being “insane”, especially since the Pavilion Bukit Jalil mall cropped up.

“That is where we start seeing the sales drop,” he revealed. Marketing efforts (such as the whole “closing of a chapter” stunt) go towards culling this downturn, but that’s only a bandaid.

The sustainable solution, of course, is by just offering really good food and really good service.

“Customers will definitely visit once when shops are newly opened, but a business only survives by having constant regulars,” he mused.

Image Credit: Scoby Cafe

He believes that Scoby’s constant flow of regulars is an indicator that the business is doing something right. Chester personally thinks it’s their customer service that sets them apart, though.

“I started working as a barista in Sydney, and people get really friendly over there,” he explained. “I really hate the scene in Malaysia where most (not all) baristas like to be just a cool-looking dude or lady behind the bar and swinging their shots like an idol. Bro, come on.”

This year, Chester plans to expand the Scoby brand in one way or another, with honest food and excellent customer service as their core.

  • Learn more about Scoby Cafe here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about F&B businesses here.

Featured Image Credit: Scoby Cafe

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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.)