When Royal Pek Wen Yang graduated from Singapore Management University in 2018, he never expected to get into the F&B business.
Instead, with a dual major in economics and finance, the 28-year-old initially decided to become a trader because he wanted to “make a lot of money”.
Now, Royal is the proud co-founder of Xian Dan Chao Ren, an F&B chain that specializes in Taiwanese-style salted egg meals.
With three island-wide branches and a fourth in the pipeline, Royal’s career transformation appears to have paid off. However, he tells AsiaOne that this comes with its own costs.
It was never meant to be a full time thing
For Royal, what started as a potential side hustle eventually became a full-time job.
Initially, he had dabbled in the idea of going into the food and beverage business because he wanted a way to generate passive income, even when he was working hard at his day job as a merchant.
With that goal in mind, he teamed up with two friends, Alan Ang, 28, and Vinny Ceh, 26, to buy and take over an existing Chinese restaurant.
Since none of them had any previous background in food and beverage – Alan was in engineering and Vinny studied Chinese – so they decided to gain some culinary skills from the chefs who had previously worked in the Chinese restaurant.
They also started selling food from the restaurant’s original menu, which consists of “kai van” (mixed rice) and fast frying dishes.
When they finally gained enough experience and understanding of the market, they decided to rename the restaurant and change the entire menu.
Of all the dishes they cooked at the Chinese restaurant, they liked salted eggs the most and they also knew it was already a hit with their customers. So, the decision to narrow down their focus and specialize in everything related to salted eggs was “pretty clear,” Arrow Royal.
For a while, Alan and Vinny ran the show full-time while Royal helped part-time with his full-time job.
This was understandably no easy feat, and as soon as his daily shift was over, he had to immediately rush to work in his side hustle. This continued until he left his commercial job in 2020.
But that wasn’t the main reason why Royal wanted to switch to a full-time F&B. Deep down, he felt that the only way he could “increase the probability of success” was if he put all his effort into it, he tells us.
“How can I try to blindly hope that it will work if I am only doing this part time? It doesn’t make sense to me that other people are doing huge tasks and committing full time to their brand and then there I am doing it part time.”
While Royal’s design is cool, he admits that one area of concern is that his source of passive income is now his main income.
“I’ve created, obviously, a tremendous amount of stress, because now, instead of having two sources of income, I’m relying on one of them. And you know, business is always risky,” he says.
Learn YouTube Marketing Skills
Today, Royal is responsible for all marketing operations of Xian Dan Chao Ren.
With over 18,700 followers on TikTok, he is also the actual face of the brand, sharing snippets of his daily life and work.
Tweet embed Replying to @username183829372 is really killing me #fyp # Hahaha #sgv #you are everywhere ♬ original sound – royalpek
While Royal has a TikTok character “ah beng” who speaks mostly Chinese, he’s actually very fluent in English and speaks incredibly well in real life.
“A lot of people who watch my videos on TikTok think I don’t know how to speak English,” he admits with a chuckle.
Royal also admits that he actually started with barely any experience in marketing or advertising, and had to pick everything up from the start online.
And what’s his favorite tool for doing all that? Youtube.
“There are amazing case studies of Starbucks and the big brands that made it,” he explains.
Aside from the internet, Royal shares that he also enjoys having friends who work in advertising, branding and marketing and who are eager to give him advice when he needs it.
Also helpful is that Royal’s brother works as a Brand Manager is how he learned how to market FMCG off the shelves.
“I’m lucky to have him,” he adds.
His parents were a little skeptical at first
Although Royal’s brothers encouraged him to pursue his F&B ambitions from the start, his parents initially did not share the same sentiments.
It wasn’t that they weren’t supportive – as conservative Asian parents, they simply had their fears and reservations about leaving him a stable, well-paid job. Not only did Royal’s two brothers work in high-level jobs in the world of banking and corporations, either.
Fortunately, Royal shares that she eventually warmed up to the idea, but it “took a while”.
“It wasn’t that they didn’t want to go through with this,” he explains. “It was like they wanted me to make sure I wanted to go that way.”
“And in the end, they gave me their blessing.”
‘We’re all trying to make it work’
It appears that Royal’s hard work is paying off. Xian Dan Chao Ren opened its first outlet in Waterway Point this past March, and has already expanded to three locations across the island, with stores in VivoCity and White Sands.
Royal and co don’t plan to stop there either. They are currently looking at potential locations for their fourth outlet, which will hopefully be in the West, he says.
However, expanding the business isn’t all like rainbows and sunshine – Royal shares that things have affected him.
“We definitely feel a lot of fatigue, especially when we open a new store,” he says, adding that when they opened the VivoCity outlet, they had to work seven days a week.
But he admits that while it is physically and mentally draining, he feels it was all worth it.
“What really drives us at the end of the day is that this is what we scored, and that is what we want,” he told us insistently.
“If we expand, the amount of work that comes with that will come naturally and we’re all trying to make it work.”