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Leaving your desk bound job to set up a cafe

Food has been one of the more popular subjects on Instagram since the latter’s beginnings. As social media platforms continue to increase their influences on the way we obtain information, it is no surprise that we now scroll through Facebook and Instagram (#foodporn) to pick the place for dinner or even date night.

This convenient flow of information has definitely make the food and beverage (F&B) industry a more competitive market – and a very attractive one at that. For those who have had it with their desk job and perhaps wish to pursue a career in the F&B industry, let’s hope that this article will be of a bit of help.


Essential ingredients


First and foremost, it is important to attain sufficient capital. The rental of a physical location, renovations, kitchen equipment, ingredients and the staff that you will possibly need to employ all requires money.



Given the scarcity of land in Singapore, securing a good location for your business will take up a considerable amount of your budget. Nevertheless, there are locations available at much more affordable prices if you bother to look hard enough, and a good marketing strategy is also necessary to draw in food lovers. In addition to that, it is also likely that months of rental are to be paid upfront in advance for almost all cases.


Marketing Cost

Renovating the place can be the first step to a good marketing strategy. By coming up with a photo-worthy theme that better differentiates your cafe from the rest out there, that in itself might draw you a good crowd interested in having “ Instagram worthy” pictures taken at your cafe.

Social media is an inexpensive and efficient way to spread public awareness, and given the high level of social media literacy of this generation, managing a Facebook page should not be too much of a problem. However, do take note that the optional need to create a website might incur some cost on your budget.


Kitchen equipment, ingredients and manpower cost

Depending on the type of cuisine you have in mind, the above cost varies. A high-end restaurant or cafe serving cuisine that requires sophisticated level of skills to prepare might call for higher cost incurred on skilled labour, chef salaries, and also kitchen equipment.

High quality ingredients do not come cheap, and thus it is important to learn to gauge the quantity of ingredients needed for each order in order to reduce wastage and save that few extra dollars for rainy days.


Cost to sustain the business and yourself

It will be ambitious for one to think that the cost incurred can be covered on your first month of revenue. The truth is, the time needed to breakeven can vary from an average of 3 to 6 months to over a year depending on the nature of your business.

During this period of time, sufficient capital is necessary to sustain the business and also the balance in your daily life.


Grants available

Having briefly walked you through the cost of starting up in the food and beverage industry, below are some grants which you might wish to take into account before aimlessly trying to find ways to raise enough capital. Despite having sufficient capital in your savings, an extra grant will definitely be a good addition to your capital for rainy days.


Innovation & Capability Voucher (ICV)

One of the easier-to-apply grants will be the Innovation & Capability Voucher (ICV). If approved, easy-to-use vouchers valued at SG$5,000 will be granted. These vouchers can be used for purchasing equipment, doing up renovations or even coming up with technical solutions as long as it falls within the supportable cost categories. Each start-up is entitled to up to 8 of such vouchers.


Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP)

A programme by e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), the organisation aims to create solutions for better employment and employability.

Under the Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP), cost supported will include automation and equipment cost, as well as re-engineering of process for increase productivity and training cost. Companies that have benefited from this programme include Shin-Sapporo Ramen and Mcdonald’s.



An interview from Bloomberg with the founders of Cosme, one of America’s top new restaurants, generated a really interesting answer.

As both founders of Cosme used to be investment bankers, when asked for their reply if former colleagues were to approach them with an interest to open a restaurant, this was what they said.

“Don’t do it! We had vision — and cajones — but still, it’s a world where margins are small and you need passion to survive, and that has to count.”

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