Secret Recipe Cakes & Café has success firmly on the menu in the Asian market; taking on new projects and expanding into markets further afield
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
Secret Recipe Cakes & Café’s dynamic and flexible approach to international markets continues to bring the Company success in the quick commercialising of concepts for large-scale businesses.
The Secret Recipe Group was built upon the philosophy of innovation and a continuous improvement strategy that has subsequently led to the creation of uncompromising quality in its products; and this has resulted in an offering which consistently exceeds customers’ expectations.
“This ability became evident when we first started Secret Recipe in 1997 with one store. And it’s now the largest local foodservice chain player in Malaysia with over 300 stores. Today, Secret Recipe is a highly recognized all-day dining lifestyle cafe and restaurant chain business, with its self-owned brands and franchise rights of selected international brands,” begins Dato’ Steven Sim, Founder and CEO at Secret Recipe Cakes & Café Group. “We were able to quickly manage and capture the market by expanding out into ten Asia Pacific countries, namely, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Brunei, Myanmar, Maldives, Bangladesh and Australia.”
Alongside this main strategy, the Company has an excellent current commissary business model that ensures it has product consistency, stable production, lower costs through economies of scale, simplified operations, a smaller retail footprint and reduced rental costs; all of which make the brand extremely competitive in its various markets.
A global phenomenon
Although the Company now holds a prominent position within the industry, it has emerged through the ranks from humble beginnings as an initially small bakery shop serving cakes, baked products and a selection of fusion dishes. Now Secret Recipe Cakes is a recognisable, global lifestyle café chain phenomenon.
“As of today, we are a household name, with more than 500 outlets under the Group umbrella and located across 12 different countries,” continues Dato’ Sim. “We’re showing no signs of stopping and currently the Secret Recipe brand is improving our menu to serve a wider variety of food and beverages, while also maintaining our promise to serve fine, quality cakes.
“Whether you are looking for a local favourite, fusion, western, pastries or a vegetarian dish, we hope that our customers will be able to find something to their liking on our menu and will be able to finish off their meal with the best dessert selection in the country.”
During its journey to success, the Company has won numerous awards for its exceptional products, leadership and business performance. This has included in the categories of Best Cheesecake, Outstanding Entrepreneur, Best International Lifestyle Restaurant and International Franchisor of the Year.
With such an array of accolades to its name, Secret Recipe has been able to diversify into producing a multi-brand portfolio that ranges from dessert kiosks such as Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart, a tea-based concept named HEYCHA that caters to a younger target demographic, and westernised services such as Roast and Grill. The Company continues to grow in new restaurant concepts with Alibaba and Nyonya being the most recent and the concept is built on a favourite local, the Peranakan cuisine.
It’s Beyond Veggie restaurants catering for vegetarians and health conscious customers remain a firm favourite.
“Besides our ever-widening portfolio of restaurants and cafes, we have been able to regularly coordinate product launches to stay ahead of the industry curve,” adds Dato’ Steven. “It is important to our company roots that we retain a focus on improving our cake selections and decorations, keeping us relevant and appealing to the younger market.”
Over the years the Company has cemented its footprint with in Asia and especially Southeast Asia; however, recent moves are seeing it spread into new markets in New Zealand and Bangladesh.
“One of the key factors in our decision making when it comes to expansion overseas, is to find the right partner that will help with the growth of our brand within their market,” explains Dato’ Steven. “Through working together as part of a franchise partnership, we are able to identify the right regions in which our brand will be successful.”
“We are incredibly adaptable to the needs of new markets and remain aware that at times we will need to make changes to our menu, with the core essence of the brand being maintained throughout.”
The Company has been able to retain its core style with thanks to many factors, including its digital and social media presence. Through paying special attention to its audience’s consumption and media habits, as well as technological and food trend influences, Secret Recipe has stayed at the forefront of consumers’ minds throughout company alterations.
“The majority of our marketing activities are predominantly communicated through digital and social media channels in order to match the changing digital trends,” affirms Dato’ Steven. “However, for some of our specific brands we will work within the target segments to strengthen our brand proposition, engaging the customers at all times.”
The ability to achieve such a complex business strategy lies within having the right people to see it through, and Secret Recipe is always attempting to source the best talent within the industry.
Dato’ Steven continues: “With thanks to strong branding, corporate culture, career development pathways and opportunities for employees, we have managed to both hire and retain the top talent within the market.
“At present we are investing more resources into training programmes for our management team, strengthening them through monthly training schemes that are customised specifically for operations and support teams.”
The Company continues to strongly believe in hiring and developing local talent wherever possible, predominantly for the fact that they will have an excellent understanding of the local market and needs of the customers.
Quality service delivery
Alongside the exceptional service on offer throughout every level of the Company, quality is of paramount importance and is one of the main focuses for Secret Recipe.
“Across the entire supply chain, from producers, to production, logistics, the restaurant and finally to the customers, we closely monitor to ensure that all risks of quality remain uncompromised,” state Dato’ Steven. “Careful planning and forecasting is carried out to ensure that our products remain at their freshest.”
With thanks to a tried and tested combination of flow-through and conventional picking balances - as well as optimised warehousing and routing - the cost to the business has been reduced and quality has been improved in all supporting stores.
“Our products remain the most well known when it comes to providing our customers with consistently high quality, as well as value pricing which is always at the forefront of our minds,” concludes Dato’ Steven. “With the everlasting tradition of celebrations - be that birthdays, festivities and special occasions - our cakes continue to be sought after and will continue to satisfy the taste-buds of customers for many years to come.”