Founder Bak Kut Teh has reduced its number of branches to two, after closing its North Bridge Road opposite Bugis Junction at the end of October. The Hotel Boss in Jalan Sultan was shut down on Dec 31.
According to a report by The Straits Times, the only remaining Founder Bak Kut Teh branches are Balestier Road flagship store and a branch at Downtown East in Pasir Ris.
The family-run business started off as a coffee shop at Choa Chu Kang in 1978 then moved to Balestier Road and expanded its menu twenty years later.
Netizens slammed plea for help
Netizens previously slammed Nigel Chua, the 45-year-old second generation owner of the restaurant, for appealing for help for his restaurant. According to posts on online forums, Singaporeans thought that the restaurant’s offerings were too expensive and that only tourists would actually pay those prices for the menu.
Some netizens had also alleged that the owners lived affluently, and owned a Ferrari sports car, similar to their accusations of Daniel Ong when he asked netizens for help with his failing Central Business District restaurant branch. Chua has since said that he owns a Toyota Vellfire.
Their Founder Bak Kut Teh is sold at $9, and Premium Ribs are priced at $10.
Netizens also told Chua to sell luxury items they alleged he owned, like cars and watches. They pointed to his expensive watch which appeared in some photos on social media, from a Swiss luxury brand. In a previous Alvinology report, Chua clarified that he had bought the Audemars Piguet watch after saving up enough money over a few years to buy the item second hand.
His father, 75-year-old Chua Chwee, was against publishing a plea for help, and was mentioned to live in a 5-room HDB flat and own no luxury cars or watches.
What happened to the closing Founder Bak Kut Teh branches?
Chua mentioned that the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic had affected his business substantially, with sales dropping by 85% in July 2020.
“The Bugis outlet depended mainly on tourists and the office crowd, both of whom were non-existent in October. And 90 per cent of the diners at Hotel Boss were tourists.” he said.
This was the same sentiment echoed by the netizens who bashed his appeal for help online last year. They said that he should close some of his branches, similar to what Mark Lee did with his restaurant business to survive.
The same report from The Straits Times, though, said that business at the remaining branches was still slow, with sales only at 20-30% volume compared to pre-pandemic business.
Hoping for Chinese New Year turnaround
Chua had mentioned that he is considering closing the Pasir Ris branch. The contract with Downtown East will also end in the middle of March.
But he has also expressed hope that things would turn around after Chinese New Year. Aside from Singapore, Founder Bak Kut Teh also has branches overseas, namely in Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and China. While the Taiwan branch is reportedly doing well, the rest of the franchises are going the same way as a lot of other F&B businesses–downhill due to the pandemic lockdowns.
“Indonesia is affected because of the lockdown. China is not doing well either. And one of the two outlets in Vietnam is closing at the end of this month,” Chua said in an interview with The Straits Times.
Header image from Founder Bak Kut Teh Facebook account