I visited two restaurants on Monday – both have been operating in Singapore for 100 years! Yes we all know Zam Zam and Victory in Arab Street. They famous for murtabak.

Was there for filming but during our break, I asked the owners and consultants of these restaurants how they lasted a century. These are my learning points:

1.  Family best kept secret.

No matter what you think, family trade secrets (and recipes) must be kept at all costs. Every single generation must respect that.

2. Create predictability in taste

People come just to remember how good it was when they last visited the restaurant. Some just dont want anything new. They want the same old taste. If you can keep it consistent for 100 years, you will have customers for 100 years. Don’t succumb too easily in changing the recipe to fit the changing taste of customers as you might lose focus. Instead, spend time on getting customers to acquire your recipe, your menu. Sooner or later they will be hooked.

3.  Know your customer to create generations of loyal visitors

These two restaurants seemed to know their customers well. They also know their customer’s children and their children’s children. I am not surprise they can do this as most of their workers have been there for more than 3 decades. They know. And customers knew them.

There were loyal foreigners too, who  will always make a pit stop when they are in town. These restaurant owners definitely know what they doing.

4. Don’t expand anywhere unless you can deliver that same taste

It is very difficult to maintain quality in one location. What more two or three. Stay true to your taste in one location and expand customer base from there.

Both restaurant started very small. They bought over their unit few decades after renting, and bought over the next door unit too. They expanded in the same good location

5. Same good hands doing the good job

I see lots of veteran in these establishments. They average from 30 to 40 years of working experience. Same hands, same quality.

6. Believe in your product

I have never met anyone so passionate about their product. These guys live and breathe Murtabak.

7. Believe in word-of-mouth

All of us should.

The whole time I was there, customers kept coming in. And mind you, it was a weekday. They came hungry and left these century-old restaurants feeling truly satisfied.

I do wonder how many establishments out there can last 100 years. Thank you Zam Zam & Victory for these useful takeaways.

Have a good business week.

Make it work.

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