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Home-based cafes seem to be a business concept that’s currently quite trendy in the F&B industry, so I wasn’t exactly surprised that Kyaku Cafe in Kuantan, Pahang was one such brand.

But never would I have imagined that its story actually began in the capital of England about a decade ago.

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

At the time, Izzat Suffian was studying for his PhD in Pharmacology at King’s College London. He was out having dinner with friends and brought along some leftover cupcakes he had made for a charity bake sale.

“I shared [the cupcakes] with them as I didn’t like to waste food,” Izzat explained, unaware at the time that this would kick-start his baking career.

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

The next day, he was surprised to receive a call from one of his pals who was working in CCM Berhad (now known as Duopharma Biotech Berhad). But what was more shocking was the corporate order placed for over 70 cupcakes. These were to be served to the new talent recruits at GRADUAN, the Malaysian Career Fair for UK graduates. 

So that’s how his baking business called Fai’s Signature started. And this would eventually lead to the opening of Kyaku Cafe, a Japanese-inspired home eatery in the idyllic town of Kuantan.

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

A jack of all trades

For two years, Izzat ran Fai’s Signature out of his apartment at Canada Water, London. It was mainly an online business marketed through Instagram and sold desserts like cakes, pavlova, brownies, blondies, and Japanese profiteroles.

All of these were made fresh upon order and delivered personally to customers, which ranged from Malaysian migrants to local UK residents. He’d receive a minimum of two orders weekly and juggled that alongside his studies.

That is, until 2017, when he moved back to Kuantan upon completing his education. 

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

Not one to give up on his dreams, Izzat re-established Fai’s Signature here after settling down. He even supplied his baked goods to a few local cafes while launching his career as an academic trainee. At the moment, he’s a full-time assistant professor at IIUM (International Islamic University Malaysia).

The turning point for his business came in early 2022 though, when he visited a small cafe that was converted from an old hair salon in Penang with a friend. 

“We were having a conversation saying that the cafe is really small yet still tempting and attractive. Shouldn’t this be possible to be done at my own home?” He had a spacious yet underused backyard, his home decor already exuded cafe vibes, and he enjoyed regularly entertaining guests. 

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

“I also remembered when I was living in Japan (as a student), there was a trend of people opening cafes, fine dining [restaurants], and small shops at their own house,” he recalled. 

Together, these inspired him to open Kyaku Cafe, a cafe focusing on Japanese-style hospitality. All the while, Fai’s Signature was still running in the background.

To give locals a taste of Japan

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

It might not seem like a large leap to go from running an online baking business to a cafe, but it’s certainly a learning curve. Some aspects that he had to learn include in-person customer service and manpower concerns. 

But his time abroad somewhat prepared him for the challenge. Sharing with us, Izzat explained that he previously worked as a frontline member for two years in Japan’s F&B industry. 

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

“I found out that the way the Japanese treat their customers is really warm. [They] prioritise the comfort of customers, which they call the ‘omotenashi’. And I would like to share a similar experience to Malaysians, especially those in Kuantan as we don’t have many Japanese F&B services here,” he stated.

The cafe’s name is also meant to reflect this Japanese influence. The word “kyaku” refers to “customers” in Japanese and also carries the meaning of “guest”. Being a home-based cafe, Izzat’s goal is to treat visitors not only as the business’s customers, but as his house guests as well. 

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

Keeping in line with this inspiration, most of its menu offerings are tinged with a Japanese touch. For example, its Kyaku Shigatsu signature coffee is a cafe latte mixed with real sakura extract from Japan.

There’s also Ryokucha Latte that’s made using matcha, hojicha, and genmaicha that’s likewise sourced from their motherland. Those looking to go the caffeine-free tea route could try the cafe’s blended rooibos tea. This boasts a nutty flavour and fruity aroma. 

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

In terms of food, Izzat ropes in Fai’s Signature to serve an array of sweet and savoury pastries. If you prefer something more filling, there’s hot meals like Japanese Curry Rice and Kyaku Sando made using croissants.

Brewing up a new future

At present, mainly student part-timers make the bulk of the cafe’s team. They either work as cafe assistants or are training to be baristas and bakers. It’s a win-win arrangement; the students acquire practical experience early on while Izzat gets the manpower help he needs.

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

However, he’s realised that hiring students can be tricky too. Sometimes they aren’t able to assist at the cafe due to academic demands like end-of-semester exams. This is especially awkward when they’re all from the same university and unavailable at the same time.

“Since then, we’re trying to have our part-timers from different [educational] backgrounds to avoid a similar challenge,” he said.

For about two years now, Kyaku Cafe has been running as a weekend-only cafe. But that might soon change with the growing customer demands for a full-time cafe that they’re receiving. 

Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

He shared that it’s still in discussion but if all goes well, this full-time cafe will be up and running by next year. 

This will naturally come with a new set of challenges but he’s not dissuaded by it. Instead, Izzat is more determined than ever to realise his dream of building a cafe for the local community.

And seeing as how 50% of its customers are from the Klang Valley, I’d say Kyaku Cafe is doing a good job at bringing Malaysians together.

  • Learn more about Kyaku Cafe here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Kyaku Cafe

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