In this article

Forget turbulence, these pilots are serving up a flavour storm.

When the pandemic grounded their aviation careers, Mohammad Hafiz bin Abd Rahman and Muhammad Afiq Nazar faced significant disruptions. Hafiz found himself furloughed, while Afiq’s flight hours were drastically reduced.

The uncertainty surrounding the aviation industry’s rebound prompted them to explore a different path, one that led to the creation of Grill Haven.

It’s a Malaysian burger haven that has taken flight from humble beginnings to become a local favourite.

Taking off from home base

Both Hafiz and Afiq had entrepreneurial ventures that helped kick-start Grill Haven. 

Hafiz ran a company selling motor oil, and Afiq had a home-based lemonade business. This experience eliminated some of the uncertainties associated with managing and operating a business.

Hafiz’s background in running several family-run F&B operations also proved invaluable. The fundamentals of logistics and operations learnt from past experiences were applied to Grill Haven, ensuring a smooth transition into the F&B industry.

Image Credit: Grill Haven

With the aviation industry on hold, Hafiz, inspired by his entrepreneurial in-laws, decided to explore a new venture. 

In December 2020, Hafiz started selling smashed burgers from his in-laws’ home in Shah Alam. Joined by his supportive sister-in-law and another relative, they started small, operating just four days a week under the limitations of the CMCO. 

Recognising a gap in the market, they focused on mini burgers and sliders, a concept that was relatively uncommon at the time, they believed. 

“Inspiration was financially motivated and thanks to the low cost and low barrier to entry, the business was heavily influenced by ideas sourced from Hafiz’s in-laws who mainly targeted market demographics favouring women,” they told Vulcan Post.

Image Credit: Grill Haven

It was only later on that Afiq decided to join Grill Haven. Their Grill Haven journey actually began with Hafiz being the burger guy and Afiq being a loyal customer.

It wasn’t until a year of working the grills and taking orders side-by-side that they decided to officially become business partners and put everything on paper.

From a small stall to a permanent landing strip 

The journey wasn’t smooth sailing. MCO restrictions hampered their ability to manage stock effectively. 

Operating a temporary stall meant battling the elements—scorching sun one day, heavy downpours the next. But Hafiz and Afiq persevered. 

Their determination paid off in 2022 when they expanded their reach by participating in the popular Publika Night Market. Here, they showcased their unique offerings to a wider audience. 

Image credit: Grill Haven

Additionally, they partnered with Wokit, Bangsar, establishing a lunchtime presence that catered to office workers in the area. 

Their journey took another exciting turn when they took part in a pop-up stall at Titiwangsa. 

This location proved to be a lucky one. Not only were they well-received by the local community, but they even had the honour of serving former Prime Minister Tan Sri Ismail Sabri on multiple occasions. 

“Scaling the business became a necessity as demand was simply increasing as the days went by. Therefore to support supply, scouting for a permanent location was of importance to keep our customers happy and for our colleagues to enjoy a much more comfortable working environment,” they said. 

In August 2023, Grill Haven landed in its current home—a comfortable space in Plaza Damansara, Bukit Damansara.

Image Credit: Grill Haven

Hands-on captains

Even though both of them still have their pilot gig going on, they remain heavily involved in the daily operations of Grill Haven. 

You might find Hafiz behind the grill, crafting juicy burgers, or Afiq taking orders with a smile, or serving barista-worthy coffee. 

This hands-on approach fosters a strong work ethic and ensures quality control. 

“Training on the job is also actively ongoing to ensure the continuity of standards that have made Grill Haven what it is today.” 

“We had also appointed our Store Manager and Assistant Store Manager to take charge of daily operations such as stock-take, delivery arrangements of customers, and much more,” said Hafiz and Afiq.

Affordable bites for all 

They understood the economic impact of the pandemic and aimed to offer delicious bites that catered to various budgets. 

Image Credit: Grill Haven

Their menu wasn’t about fancy frills or expensive ingredients; it was about delivering quality, satisfying food at a price point that kept customers coming back for more.

Staying ahead of the curve is crucial in the ever-evolving F&B landscape. Grill Haven keeps a keen eye on social media trends, particularly those buzzing on TikTok. 

This allows them to stay in tune with evolving customer preferences and adapt their menu accordingly. By incorporating these insights, they ensure their offerings resonate with the current culinary desires of their target audience.

One of Grill Haven’s most popular creations, the Ebi Haven shrimp rolls, exemplifies their dedication to in-house innovation. 

Image Credit: Grill Haven

Inspired by the luxurious lobster roll trend, they opted for prawns as a more cost-effective alternative. 

“No doubt, there is a rather distinctive taste between the two proteins, however, our recipe—which is developed in-house using premium ingredients—can elevate the taste of our prawns.”

“The secret lies in our sauce that is used to complement the rich taste of our Ebi Haven products,” shared the founders.

Their menu caters to those seeking a hearty meal with their regular-sized burgers and sliders, while also offering mini versions perfect for sharing or a lighter option.

Soaring to new heights

After years of navigating challenges and constantly innovating, Hafiz and Afiq are reaping the sweet rewards of their hard work. 

They take immense pride in the customer satisfaction and loyalty they’ve built. 

Their advice to budding entrepreneurs is to never take an easy route. “Branding exercise takes time and endless effort and that is one of the key pillars to a successful business.”

Image Credit: Grill Haven

“Be actively involved with your business and be a part of the team as opposed to simply instructing and spectating your team,” they shared.

Hafiz and Afiq also shared to not be afraid to start small, embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and prioritise building a strong and recognisable brand. 

Grill Haven’s ambitions extend far beyond their current location. Their long-term vision is to become a multi-brand F&B giant in Malaysia. They aspire to be pioneers in affordable food innovation, offering a variety of culinary experiences across different brands, all at accessible price points. 

Their expansion plans include establishing multiple outlets across major cities in Malaysia, with Penang and Johor on their immediate radar. 

Additionally, they dream of venturing into international markets like Singapore and Dubai, bringing their unique flavours to a global audience. 

“We do not foresee an attainable franchise model for Grill Haven at the moment as we are currently looking into a more sustainable model that is beneficial for both Grill Haven and external stakeholders,” said the founders.

From a home-based experiment born out of an unexpected detour, Grill Haven has soared to success, captivating taste buds and carving their own space in the ever-evolving F&B landscape. 

  • You can learn more about Grill Haven here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Grill Haven

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

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

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