Western food had always been deemed posh and pricey, especially in first-world Singapore. But you can have your steak and eat it too at COLLIN’S®, a home-grown restaurant chain specialising in Western food at pocket-friendly prices. In an interview with SG Lifestyle, the chain’s 44 year old Founder, Collin Ho, shares his business philosophies with Column Editor, Angela, and tells us more about the person who inspired him to step out of the kitchen and embark on his entrepreneur journey.
SGLS: COLLIN’S® chain of restaurants burst into the local F&B scene nine years ago and has since gone from strength to strength, with snaking queues at some of your outlets. How did you get there?
Collin: I started the first COLLIN’S® outlet in 2012 after having accumulated 20 years of culinary experience in restaurants and five-star hotels. It was a one-man show in a FOODLOFT® (hawker stall within a coffee shop) in Geylang. It was a steep but rewarding learning curve as I managed all the operations: from the selection of premium ingredients to the design of the menu and also the cooking. I did all that to ensure all my dishes are of high quality.
SGLS: Why Western Food? What are your top three favourite items on the menu?
Collin: My culinary experience stemmed from having worked in restaurants and five-star hotels that serve Western cuisine. Hence, it was a natural choice when it came to developing the concept for COLLIN’S®. Our customers came to love our signature items such as Signature Grilled Chicken Chop, COLLIN’S® Mixed Grill, and Signature Roasted Barbecue Pork Ribs.
SGLS: Many F&B outlets have folded due to the slump in the economy brought on by the pandemic. How did COLLIN’S® stay afloat and thrive in a COVID-struck year?
Collin: Since our brand was established in 2012, the core brand values of providing premium Western cuisine at pocket-friendly prices have enabled us to win over the hearts of discerning consumers from all walks of life.
Between 2016 and 2020, our restaurants’ portfolio grew to a total of 12 restaurants, including Elfuego by COLLIN’S® (Halal-certified concept). This included the opening of two COLLIN’S® restaurants in Great World and Jurong Point in 2020. We currently have 27 restaurants and outlets in Singapore and overseas, with a presence in Jakarta, Indonesia, Cambodia, and China.
SGLS: What are your plans in the pipeline for 2021?
Collin: We relocated our company’s headquarters to New Tech Park more than a year ago and are currently working towards the launch of four brands in the later part of 2021. This includes a COLLIN’S® restaurant, which will be the 13th outlet. We also have plans to open a central kitchen that will be 10 times larger than the existing facility. It will also be equipped with high technology equipment that will advance our team’s operational capabilities.
SGLS: Who inspires you in business and in life?
Collin: Definitely our Chairman, Mr Alex Chia. He is my mentor and role model and has been pivotal in guiding me through the toughest times and continues to push me to achieve more today. Without his firm belief in me right from the start, COLLIN’S® and my personal standing would never have achieved their current success today. Throughout the eight-year journey, Mr Chia unfailingly stood by me and together we steered the business through many obstacles. I have learned from him the importance of staying calm in the face of chaos while being decisive in the midst of adversities.
He saw the potential in me back when I was a budding entrepreneur who was deeply embedded in the daily operations of running a stall alone. Mr Chia taught me to view things from a macro-perspective in order to scale the business. He also imparted how it was more crucial to learn how to manage and build a strong team than to perfect every aspect of the business by myself. That encapsulates my entire entrepreneurial life as I began on a journey and a joint quest with Mr Chia to bring the COLLIN’S® brand name to every household in Singapore (and eventually the rest of the world).
COLLIN’S® Celebrates the Chinese “Niu” Year with their takeaway bundle. Valid from 1 January 2021 to 28 February 2021 only. Find out more at: https://www.collins.sg/promotions
Interview by: Angela May Tan, Column Editor & Writer