artichoke-cafe

Guest Interview Series (F&B) – with Roxanne Toh from Artichoke Cafe

Roxanne is the manager of two F&B brands in Singapore; Artichoke Cafe and Bird Bird. She is in charge of driving change, continued learning, employee relations and everything in between at both brands, and aspire to be part of a positive work environment at each.

Editor’s note: This interview is part of Talenox’s Guest Interview series. This particular series is with renowned individuals in the F&B industry. In our first installation, we talk to Roxanne about the future of the F&B experience and how she manages her relationships with the most important piece of the pie – people.


artichoke-cafe

 

Roxanne, thank you for taking some time from your busy schedule to answer these questions. I’m sure your answers will help many people out there – be it those who aspire to start a food business, or existing business owners who are constantly trying to manage the involving demands of the people around them. Let’s start with the basic misconception about owning a restaurant or cafe; many people think that it will bring you a lot of freedom and flexibility. What would you say about that?

 

“Running your own business regardless of industry, really requires you to get down and dirty and work through the nitty gritty – so I’d say go in with eyes wide open and don’t expect to attend every wedding dinner, birthday bash and family gathering that you’ve been invited to.”

 

How do you gauge the success of a restaurant?

 

“I’d say a restaurant is successful if it’s able to keep both employees and customers happy, while sticking to your guns i.e. staying true to your vision.”

 

artichoke food(Credits: Facebook, Artichoke)

 

What are some of the major shifts that you’re seeing in the F&B industry or customer demands?

 

“Manpower is definitely one big challenge for many business owners who then turn to adopting technology – be it in order taking, dish washing or managing queues. This completely changes a customer’s experience at a restaurant and business owners can risk losing that personal touch which is lacking these days.”

 

What role does staff play in improving the F&B experience?

 

“A staff member can make a customer feel very welcomed or terribly turned off from the moment they step into the establishment, eat and then leave.  I believe this boils down to the desire to serve from the heart, and the willingness to learn, no matter how long they’ve been working for. Trust me, it shows when someone is truly genuine about serving a customer versus someone who just wants to get his pay check at the end of each month.”

 

Have there been any changes to the hiring experience or process in Artichoke recently?

 

“Our industry is small and word gets around fast and furious, so references are critical – just as a potential employee’s it factor, no matter how highly qualified he is. At both artichoke and bird bird, it is important to us that someone has the right attitude and is willing to learn, regardless of his academic qualifications and work experience.”

 

It is widely agreed in the industry that attracting new hires to join is not the problem – it’s retaining the good ones that is.

 

“Agree, and that oftentimes comes with a hefty price tag. In the grander scheme of things and if you’re doing well, it’s a worthwhile investment so it is important that one thinks big picture.”

 

What are some processes you have put in place to keep your people happy?

 

“Keeping communication consistent and open, so that they know your line is open if you ever need to talk. Setting some ground rules in regards to their employment such as leave application or being late for work also informs our team that we are fair and reasonable in our treatment to every one. These ground rules also apply to those in management, so it really is a case of we practice what we preach.”

 

1934067_1170773169619273_5505329588251757003_n(Credits: Facebook, Artichoke)

 

With so much on your plate, how do you find time to manage the relationships with the other people in your life (i.e. your spouse, family, and friends)?

 

“I try to plan ahead as much as possible because this gives me the opportunity to make contingency plans if any, and minimise the possibility of canceling on someone at the eleventh hour. Delegating and being ‘not shy’ about accepting help are things I’ve learned in the recent years and realise how much value it brings to myself and the people around me. I’m also fortunate to have a workplace that avails flexible work arrangements and leave types apart from what is legislated!”

 

That’s true — it definitely helps. Well, it looks like we’ve come to the end of our interview. Before we end, let me post you one last question – If a kid walked up to asking for your advice in life and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?

 

“As my late father would have said to me, keep to your word and never, ever ever, ever stop learning.”

 

roxanne and bjorn_artichoke cafe

 

Feeling hungry? Check out Roxanne and Bjorn’s latest cheeky Thai fried chicken restaurant, Bird Bird, at 18 Ann Siang Rd.

 

 

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