The Star newspaper : Spotlight on Young CEOs
Former corporate banker now runs food outlet chains locally and abroad
Though running a restaurant is hard work, former corporate banker George Ang finds it a most satisfying switch in career. The managing director of Revenue Valley Sdn Bhd believes that if you do something you love, you will never go wrong.
Ang, who holds a bachelor of business in accounting and finance degree from the University of Western Australia, has always wanted to set up his own business. Upon graduation, he joined OCBC Bank (M) Bhd before being headhunted to join Paribas Labuan branch in 1996. Subsequently, he was transferred to Paribas Singapore as assistant vice-president of the corporate banking division.
Despite being a high flyer in the financial industry, Ang’s entrepreneurial spirit continued to lurk, waiting for a chance to surface. “I realised that I did not want to be a high flyer after all. So, I left the corporate world to set up my own business,” he told StarBiz. Full of enthusiasm, Ang, 36, and his partner, Dr Jeffrey Goh, a dentist-turned-politician, invested about RM60,000 in a food and beverage (F&B) business. “We wanted to operate a small business and decided to try our hand at F&B. We developed our own brand, the Manhattan Fish Market (MFM) restaurant chain, with our limited resources. We opened our first outlet in Mid Valley City, funded mostly via loans,” he said. Ang said there were a lot of fish and chips places, but they needed one with a “wow” factor, thus MFM was conceived.
MFM is a casual dining seafood restaurant found in various shopping malls. “MFM has been profitable since day one. With the small profit we made, we rolled over the money and opened the second outlet in Subang Parade and expanded from there,” Ang said.
Set up in 2002, Revenue Valley currently has 25 MFM outlets throughout Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
“Apart from increasing our presence in Malaysia, we are also trying to establish a presence overseas,” Ang said, adding that the group would be franchising the MFM brand in the Middle East, Indonesia and the Philippines.
He said MFM had reached a certain maturity in Malaysia and the way forward for the group was to expand into the Asia-Pacific region. “Our overseas sales have been increasing proportionately with our expansion. Currently, it contributes about RM15mil to revenue,” Ang said.
Apart from MFM, Revenue Valley also owns other food chains, including fast-food joint London Fish Tale and Hainan Kopitiam. It also operates Tony Roma’s restaurants in the Klang Valley via subsidiary Grandpolitan Sdn Bhd, the exclusive franchisee of the American restaurant chain owned by Texas-based Romacorp Inc.
In addition, it also runs two SushiGroove restaurants in the Klang Valley via SushiGroove (M) Sdn Bhd, a joint venture with SushiGroove Jakarta. Ang said apart from expanding MFM, the group would also be growing its other restaurant chains. “We are currently looking for suitable locations for our expansion plans. We will also be bringing in more new brands to the market,” he said, adding that its first London Fish Tale outlet opened its door in Kota Baru recently.
Ang said Revenue Valley was optimistic of achieving its revenue target of RM85mil for the financial year ending Dec 31, buoyed by organic growth and rapid expansion.
He said earnings have been growing steadily by about 25% year-on-year over the past four years. Revenue Valley is projecting RM100mil in revenue next year, of which 65% would be contributed by MFM.
Ang is a hands-on person. He plays an active role in the running of the restaurant, including cleaning up at times when the restaurant is short-handed. He also practices an open management style and coaches his employees. “I see myself as a football coach. I know I am not the best player on the field but I know how to maximise their best potential,” said Ang.
The energetic father of a year old enjoys cooking for his family, an activity he finds relaxing, creative and fun. He is also very meticulous about the quality of the food served in his restaurants.
Even though his job keeps him busy, Ang finds time to read. He loves cook books and is currently reading Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin.
“We will continue to expand our business overseas despite the anticipated slowdown in the global economy. We have not experienced any dip in our business. Our business continues as normal.
“We will stay focused and overcome the hurdles during bad times. Our philosophy is to provide great food and service. In the restaurant business, it is always about service and creating a whole dining experience,” Ang said. He added that Revenue Valley would try to maintain its food prices in the face of rising raw material costs by adhering to its cost, reduction, action and plan (CRAP) concept. “With CRAP, we can maintain costs despite inflation and there is no compromise on quality and service,” he said.
Revenue Valley was eyeing a stock exchange listing by 2010, Ang said. He has started discussions with some merchant bankers and was considering listing on Bursa Malaysia or the Singapore Stock Exchange. “We are still studying the market, hoping to choose a better time. The market is rather slow now. If we list, it will be within 24 months, so that we have a proven track record to show to our investors,” Ang said
Footnote: Revenue Valley went on to acquire the franchise of Popeye in Singapore and bought over the the company that owes the franchise for Popeye in Malaysia. As at 1st quarter of 2011, the annual turnover for Revenue Valley has passed RM150 million and will be expanding into Mainland China.