Although Western Food was available in Singapore at the time, authentic varieties were pretty much available only in higher priced restaurants. For the average Singaporean, Western Food was available mostly in nondescript food stalls and fast-food restaurants.
Ruminating on this, we came up with a conclusion, if not a solution, maybe. The reason why Singapore may not have people who know how to treat these world travelers, was because they themselves had never been treated with world class service here in Singapore. It wasn’t part of the basic Singapore culture. Remember that in those days, it was not unusual for stall holders to shout at customers and tell them to take their business elsewhere only due to the customer asking for separate this, or a little more that. How would the average Singaporean know to treat patrons any differently than they had been treated? So Botak Jones was intent on providing service based on the idea that EVERYONE was a world class customer. Service was based on taking care of people, and it still is. In fact, in 2009 the former Botak Jones was voted in the AsiaOne’s People Choice Awards as one of the top three in F&B customer service with the other two being five-star restaurants!
This meant that Botak Jones Western Food items were focused more on quality and portioning. Not so much how to purchase inexpensive the basic ingredients. Pricing had to be affordable, yes, but it only came in secondary to food quality and taste.
Since we started as most others started in a food stall, we were able to do our own R&D on recipes while holding costs to a minimum. We only had two or three people engaged in the business at that time
with two of those being the owners Zee and Bernie. Since Bernie is American, the recipes had to culminate in food that was reminiscent of the food he grew up with, authentic.
Why would Botak Jones Western Food grow to National prominence with such humble beginnings? The goal of Botak Jones wasn’t to become successful in itself. The honest goal was to provide the average Singaporean with authentic, well-made food at a reasonable price, not necessarily cheap, but reasonable for the quality of the food we were providing.
With the other Western Food businesses being part of the R&D, the knowledge that this food could be made economically in a food stall was already recognized by Bernie. Considering the open “playing field” at the time, no one was offering restaurant quality, handmade Western Food that could be purchased in such an accessible environment. This helped Botak Jones and the Western Food we were making stand apart from what was currently available. The word spread. First by mouth, and then by articles and finally by Botak Jones marketing. This was all part of the plan as was mentioned earlier; treating EVERYONE as a world class patron had us thinking of Botak Jones as a world class business.
The food had to be something that grabbed our patron’s attention immediately with the first bite. The flavors had to explode rather than be mild. This didn’t mean that the flavor had to be obtrusive or highly spiced, it meant that the flavor had to have a prominence that drew the diner’s attention to the fact that they were eating something unique, if not special. This sounds funny that a diner might not know that they are eating something, but if you think about dining, more attention was put on the others they were dining with, or the other people around them in the eating house, or the game on the television, etc. Knowing this drove us even harder to make the food and flavor stand out.
Our personal belief is that honesty and transparency are part of the Botak Jones Western Food DNA. We didn’t mean to be any kind of authority. We wanted to provide Western Food that was authentic, was chemical free and cooked with respect for the food. We were doing this because we were the same people as the people buying our food. We wanted it to be that good for ourselves. We saw little differentiation between us as proprietors and those who buy our food, we are the same. We have the same likes, dislikes, tastes, etc. The only difference is only that we are selling, and our patrons are buying, at least in our eyes.
The result was that all Singaporeans had the opportunity to try authentic handmade Western Food with its roots in the America. It was a personal choice of the patron whether they enjoyed this type of food or not. We didn’t want to make our food more “Singaporean” or local as our drive was to offer something that was AUTHENTIC. We knew that it wasn’t going to be liked by everyone. It was/is different than the local recipes and foods. That was the point. Offer a taste of food from somewhere else that was considered regular food somewhere else. It must have been pleasing to many as we were going through eight tons of chicken breast, eight tons of Pacific Dory, four tons of cube roll (ribeye) and over 20 tons of fries every month! These were our roots.