More bak kwa brands are heading online as newer suppliers tap on the Internet channels to boost their brand and popularity. Despite many of the bak kwa companies joining the online bandwagon, one particular company has stayed its course. Queueing, not clicking- Mention queues, and immediately Lim Chee Guan comes to mind.
The 81 year old institution is widely known as the store that sells some of the best bak kwa in Singapore. In fact, for many, the queuing has sort of become a ritual for Chinese New Year. Looking back, this family-run business started as a pushcart stall at the foot of a staircase on Chin Chiew Street in 1938. Today, Lim Chee Guan presents two other outlets at ION Orchard and People’s Park Complex, as well as its headquarters and production facility in the Ulu Pandan area. With over 100 employees, the business has come a long way from its humble roots.
Decades of history has seen their bak kwa offerings undergo several changes, such as introducing new varieties and flavours. “Our bak kwa used to be in thicker and larger pieces, and the seasoning wasn’t as strong as it is now”, recalls the younger Lims. It can be seen that Lim Chee Guan has been modifying their recipes over the years, to appeal to the changing taste and preference of consumers. They are open to customers feedbacks and suggestions, and takes their words into consideration. Walk in to any Lim Chee Guan store and you will find fish, prawn and bacon bak kwa in addition to their traditional minced and sliced pork versions.
Bak kwa-making is a time-consuming process. In the early days, the Founder would manually cut thin slices off a slab of pork and marinated them before spreading the meat over a bamboo sieve to dry in the sun. Today, many of the process remains much the same, except machines are used to cut the large slabs of pork into smaller pieces. Everything else is still done by hand. This updated method of production was the result of a hard-won agreement struck between Rod and his scions. They agreed that implementation of any new technology should not alter the way the bak kwa is made or the quality and taste of their product.
Most importantly, it is not just the products that Lim Chee Guan is modernising. Lim has hired an in-house graphic designer to create a series of hand-drawn designs for their packaging and in store designs. It can be seen that Lim tries very hard to preserve their tradition while injecting modernity into their looks and flavours.
For Lim, growing the business was very much about managing family and friends. They have grown to a point where they don’t have sufficient family and friends to maintain the business, so they have their employees, who they see as family as well. There are employees who have been with them for over 30 years, spending their youth with them.
“To this day, my father tells us that we cannot just look at dollars and cents. He always tells us to consider how we treat our customers, how we treat each other and everyone else.”
If you would like to know more about this, do join us in our next “The Working Family” event on 29 May. For more information, visit our event page @ https://herfamily.peatix.com/
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