Since Foo Hee Hong founded Choon Guan Cafe in 1956, no one has known the meaning or history of the restaurant name.
Not even the family who run the company and have passed it on to the third generation.
“My grandfather died before I was born. We never got the chance to ask him what the brand meant, ”said Foo's 28-year-old grandson David, who now runs the business.
Establishing a brand identity
Choon Guan was translated directly from the "Spring Garden" (偆 園) and has been in operation for over 6 decades.
But the name of the restaurant never really mattered. Many of their customers, even their regular customers, didn't even know the name for years.
Instead, they simply named the shop after its owner: Ah Foo & # 39; s Café, Ah Foo & # 39; s Kopitiam, Ah Foo & # 39; s shop.
"After my grandfather passed away, it became Ah Keows (my mother) Café or Morgans (youngest uncle) or Chee Chins (my aunt)," David said.
David's grandma and mother / Photo credit: Choon Guan Hainan Coffee
When David finally took over a few years ago, he forced a stronger brand identity with Choon Guan.
"Hainan Coffee" was later added to brand awareness, following the steps of well-known MNC brands like Subway Sandwich, OldTown White Coffee, Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc.
Today it is officially known as Choon Guan Hainan Coffee.
The land was a gift
Foo, who belongs to the British D.O. and his family / Photo credit: Choon Guan Hainan Coffee
Foo was born on the Chinese island of Hainan and came to Malaya in the 1940s to work for the British District Officer (D.O.) as the personal chef. He took English classes at night to better communicate with his superiors.
When the British D.O. When they planned to retire and bring their whole family back to England, they invited Foo to join them.
“But my grandpa decided to stay in Malaya. So they suggested that my grandpa open his own café instead of looking for other jobs, ”said David.
To thank him for his years of service, the British D.O. donated a piece of land to Foo in Port Klang, where he built a commercial building in 1956 to open the Choon Guan Cafe.
After starting the business, he received permission to relocate his wife and 8-year-old daughter to Malaya in early 1957.
Define a focus
Over the years the family began setting up SOPs for cooking their food and brewing their Hainan coffee. One of the biggest changes to the menu was the removal of many dishes.
Since the late Foo was a cook for the British, he sold a variety of kitchens in the cafe. There was western food from fish and chips to chicken chops and Asian from kuih to noodles.
"There was a time after my grandfather's death when my mother and grandma only managed to maintain the Hainan chicken rice, drinks (Hainan coffee and tea) and bread," he said.
His mother and grandma would focus on serving Hainan specialties / Photo credit: Choon Guan Hainan Coffee
Even the Hainan chicken rice was removed for a while due to staffing issues before returning shortly afterwards. When David took over, the restaurant added more variety again.
Today they offer the regular assortment you'll find in every Kopitiam, from half-boiled eggs to curry laksa, nasi lemak, and pudding, all made from scratch.
With this quality control, Choon Guan was able to expand to 5 additional locations in Selangor, which unfortunately had to cease operations after the outbreak of the pandemic. The brand tried hard to get into the digital realm.
We were very focused on dine-ins. The pandemic taught me a valuable lesson. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Sales fell dramatically. We wanted to subscribe to deliveries, but not because of high commissions. We were very reluctant to raise the prices of our food and drinks.
David, manager of Choon Guan Hainan Coffee.
Instead of closing the store, the team contacted regulars, offered pickup for takeaway orders, and even offered deliveries via Lalamove and Grab Delivery.
Although Choon Guan had to bear the additional cost of food packaging, they cut down on commission payments.
Since regular guests in Klang prefer chicken rice in its regular form, the rice balls are only made to order on special request / Photo credit: Choon Guan Hainan Coffee
David told Vulcan Post that Choon Guan never got out of the pandemic, but that their customers did it for them.
As for the land given by the British? David announced that this is the only branch that still exists today.
The restaurant is now in the former parking lot of the original shop, which was infested by termites 2 years ago.
Growing up with the restaurant
The restaurant is now on the former parking lot of the shop / Photo credit: HungryOnion
David was part of the business from an early age. Although he can't remember when he started helping, Choon Guan remains a large part of his childhood.
So much so, that regular customers felt like his long-lost relatives, knowing about his accomplishments in school and even about the dating life.
When Choon Guan launched his instant Hainan coffee packs 10 years ago, he hired a few friends and sold the product together at the morning markets. They would then split the winnings for extra pocket money.
David already has 6 decades of history behind him and wants Choon Guan to make it to a century. His wildest dream is to make it a household name not only in Malaysia but also in the ASEAN countries in the future.
- You can find out more about Choon Guan Hainan Coffee here.
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Selected image source: TauFuLou and Choon Guan Hainan Coffee