Sean Ooi


Recipe for success

Article from the Sun daily by Yeo Chia Hui(posted on 21 May 2015)

WHEN it comes to business, two months is not a terribly long time. In fact, what can one possibly achieve in this time frame? Nevertheless for Sean Ooi, all it took was 60 days for him to open up Strangers at 47 – a cafe that specialises in crepes. Before you dismiss it as just another dessert joint, this place actually serves savoury and sweet crepes. The one-of-a-kind crepes served here are meant to fill your tummy and make it worth your while.

Ooi conceived the idea of opening this cafe at the tender age of 23; fresh out of university, he ventured into an already congested industry but instead of disappearing into the background like many others, this is one cafe that is going from strength to strength.

"In Malaysia, there are a lot of cafes around so if I don't specialise, it will just become one of the many. I got the idea about crepes because my mum had some when she visited Australia and she found that crepes are interesting. Since crepes are very versatile and unique, I decided to focus my menu around them," said the co-founder and chef.

Two months after it opened its door to the public, Strangers at 47 was shortlisted in Time Out Kuala Lumpur Food Awards 2014 under the best cafe category. This is quite a feat especially for a fledgling cafe which hasn't even celebrated its first birthday yet.

The success that this whimsical cafe has enjoyed thus far can be attributed to this young entrepreneur and his team. While it might be a little trite to label Ooi as a hard-nosed businessman, he does live up to that image. He knew what he wanted and he went for it determinedly.

"Why I wanted to start young is because I have less responsibilities on my shoulder now so if anything goes wrong I can start all over again. Lecturers and friends advised me to work for 10 years to gain some experience first because it's very difficult to start a restaurant. It's not easy, but I told them that no one is ever really prepared to go into business because there are so many things to learn; even someone with 20 years of experience will face some problems," explained the 24-year-old.

Putting in more than 16 hours a day, it is evident that Ooi takes this seriously. In fact, one business tip that he has learned is that owners must always be in the premise.

"We need to be here all the time to ensure quality control in terms of food and customer service. Contrary to what people may think, running a cafe requires very hands-on work; I start working at 8am and only go home around 1am, so each day I only get four to five hours of sleep. If you have no food and beverage industry (F&B) experience and are just looking to earn big bucks from investing into a cafe, then it is very hard for it to be successful."

Besides running the business, Ooi is also an accomplished chef who came up with everything that Strangers at 47 has to offer in its menu– from the ingredients to the names, they are all his signature.

Like many other successful people and with his sight already set on a few other future endeavours, he doesn't plan to stop at Strangers at 47.

"I might set up another branch for Strangers at 47 but just one more. After that, I want to venture into another restaurant that serves specialty dishes also but it won't be serving crepes. My ultimate goal, however, is to start a boutique hotel; a small one providing maybe 15 rooms with my cafe downstairs," Ooi said.

While opening a hotel is a totally different ball game, Ooi still gave himself five years to achieve this. His goal may seem far-fetched to some, but he definitely has the shrewdness, tenacity and mettle needed to carry out this dream of his.


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