Photo credits: The Soup Spoon
If you are a local, you would have definitely come across The Soup Spoon. With more than 20 outlets island wide serving hearty and wholesome soups to hungry Singaporeans, it is clear that they have made a name for themselves in the industry.
We had the chance to interview Anna Lim, Co-Founder and CEO, to learn how The Soup Spoon came about and her take on entrepreneurship.
1. When and how did the idea of Soup Spoon came into being?
The Soup Spoon was founded in 2002 by 3 soup loving mates, including myself, my husband Mr Andrew Chan and Mr Benedict Leow. We all met while studying in Perth at Australia’s Murdoch University. It was a chance conversation that Andrew had with his sister on the prevalence of soup eateries in England and the United States planted the seed of an idea with us. We began exploring the feasibility of importing the concept to Singapore.
2. Tell us about your career path. How did you get your start? How and why did you open your business?
After graduating, I started working as an embryologist at the Singapore General Hospital. However, in July 2001, I quit the full-time job to look into setting up a soup business. It was a plunge into the dark to look for opportunities and to do something I really enjoyed. I was the first of the trio to quit my job. To gain technical experience in scaling up soup production without compromising quality, we started selling our soup at a church funfair and offered lunch-time delivery services to offices. Although feedback on the quality and taste of the soup was encouraging, we quickly learnt that we needed a retail space to be able to cook in large quantities. We just couldn’t operate out of a home. The toilet of an HDB flat is simply not big enough to wash vegetables for pots of soup! The big break came when a contact linked us up to Raffles City Shopping Centre, which was keen to try out new concepts. So in 2002, we opened our first store, and the rest is history!
3. How do you promote clean eating in a market filled with processed foods?
When we started the soup movement in Singapore, keeping with our values of having no preservatives, no MSG and no nasties, we had only a very niche market to serve. In the past, most people wanted quick fixes that were cheap, and good. Times have changed, consumers now are much more concerned about what they are eating, rather than how much they are paying. We have promoted clean eating from the inception of The Soup Spoon, and now offer 14 and 30 day meal plans like Souperdiet which helps busy Singaporeans eat well, and feel great!
4. What are the major problems that business owners in the food industry have and what did you do to cope up with them?
The usual suspects… Skyrising rental costs, shortage of manpower, retaining talent. While we can’t do much about rental costs other than negotiating with land owners, we have improved by leaps and bounds in the areas of retaining talent and managing manpower. Our HR team works closely with government bodies to work on lean development (LEDs projects), automation, and providing co-sponsorships for students in tertiary education who are passionate about the industry. The government has provided us with grants for certain projects like bringing in the first HPP machineinto Singapore, and we are lucky and blessed to have that.
5. What’s your secret to keeping customers coming in?
We innovate and get creative! We know that although people are creatures of habit, they will eventually get bored if our menu only provided 8 mainstay soups. This is why we launched monthly Souperchef Specials which are inspired by my travels across the globe. These offerings and the monotony and allow us to bring the world, to our kitchen, straight to you! Bringing new flavours to the table was a way we kept our offerings fresh and exciting as “new” menu of soups would be launched every month.
Our exemplary service staff also keep our regulars coming back. When customers dine at The Soup Spoon, we provide not just good food at reasonable prices, we also want them to feel completely at home when drinking our soups.
6. What’s your advise to budding entrepreneurs?
You will need smarts, guts and some luck, but most importantly a heart for the business. If you are passionate about something, it will keep you working hard and you will never regret a minute of it.
7. Who’s your inspiration to keep you going to do what you do today and to do it so well?
My inspiration has always been for The Soup Spoon to become the Starbucks of soup! Massimo Bottura is someone that I look up to, he once said that, “Innovation is tradition in evolution.”, and this truly resonates with me and my business ethos.
8. What do you love doing as a past time?
I enjoy cooking for my family and traveling for inspiration for my next Souperchef Special.
Meet Anna Lim LIVE on 26 Septemeber 2018 at the H.E.R Asia Summit as she shares more on the strategies to scale a business. For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/hersg2018.
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