If you ask me for restaurant recommendations in Melaka, I’ll give a cursory introduction to places serving chicken rice balls, Nyonya cuisine, and satay celup. But one of the specific cafes that I always suggest to visitors to my hometown is The Daily Fix.
Tucked away in the back of a souvenir shop, right in the middle of Jonker Street, The Daily Fix opened in 2014. Like most Third Wave cafes, it has brunch fare on its menu alongside of a good coffee.
Did you know: Third wave coffee is a coffee marketing movement that emphasizes high quality beans. This means the beans are traceable, carry specific flavor notes, and have lighter roast profiles.
For me, The Daily Fix has been a mainstay of Melaka’s F&B scene for years, acting as an inspiration and benchmark for similar cafes that have popped up.
But for owners Julian Yeo and Sung Soo Teng, The Daily Fix wasn’t really created to change the scene in Melaka. They just wanted to offer what they had enjoyed in Australia, which was well-brewed espresso coffees.
Go with the flow
Neither Julian nor Soo Teng had any experience in food or business. The couple weren’t that confident, but they wanted to make the most of their opportunity.
“We didn’t have a business plan, we didn’t have projections for the next few years,” the founders confessed. “It was even very stupid, but luckily we succeeded.”
They may not have a plan, but they had an idea. They wanted a speakeasy-style cafe that complemented the gift shop out front, which is owned by Julian’s mother.
The couple took coffee lessons from Barista Guild Asia, which not only taught them coffee knowledge and theory, but also gave them a network of coffee friends.
“We were doing it very organically,” they shared. “We learned as we went, we made many mistakes and we listened to customers.”
Of course, we must also thank their family.
“This could only have happened because of the affordable rent offered by our dear aunt,” they said. “Not to mention the strong support of mom with her beautiful cakes and her encouragement which allowed us to get through it.”
Mix family and business
From the start, Julian and Soo Teng have always incorporated the family element into their business.
Before coffee, Julian’s mother ran a souvenir business in space, though it was deteriorating and difficult to manage.
But there was a small space in the back that Julian’s mother occasionally used as a cafe. Thus, the couple had the idea of taking over this rear part and converting it into a permanent café. They managed to convince Julian’s mother, and the rest is history.
“The place where The Daily Fix currently occupies was part of the gift shop,” Julian and Soo Teng explained. “When we started, you could look at souvenirs or products while sipping your coffee. We set up small tables and chairs here and there as long as there was enough space.
They have since expanded to take up more space, although the gift shop remains today.
Julian’s mother also gave The Daily Fix one of her most iconic dishes, namely her pancakes.
“We are very lucky that my mum loves to cook, so this is a perfect outlet for her,” Julian explained. “Until now, most of our signature cakes are baked by my mother.”
In addition to this, the couple’s relatives also helped by providing second-hand furniture to outfit the restaurant. This allowed for minimal start-up cost.
“We got better as we went along,” the couple shared. “When we started, we didn’t have major renovations.”
The most expensive thing they bought at the time was a coffee machine which cost RM30,000, which made them “just about broke”. Today however, it can be safely said that it has given them a satisfactory return on investment.
Diversify the business
Instead of opening more branches of The Daily Fix, Julian and Soo Teng wanted to try other menus and create new experiences for customers.
“We want it to be fresh and exciting for us too, at least for now,” they shared.
After opening The Daily Fix in 2014, they opened another cafe named Sin See Tai in 2016. Located in Kampung Jawa, Sin See Tai is also home to The Daily Fix Coffee Roaster and The Curious Bakers, a coffee roaster and bakery respectively.
In 2019 they introduced Sharing Plates as a sister cafe to The Daily Fix. Sharing Plates’ aesthetic is more modern than The Daily Fix, which features a vintage concept.
All new businesses have been opened in Melaka as the couple prefer to oversee the outlets themselves. It is currently not a priority for them to expand to other states.
Not all sunshine and rainbows
Given the location of the cafes, many of their customers are actually tourists from other states. So when interstate travel was restricted, the company saw a 70-80% drop in revenue.
Travel restrictions have also caused supply issues. The cafe was stocking up on sourdough bread from KL, but nothing could be sent during the MCO. Thus, Soo Teng had to try his hand at baking sourdough for cafes.
“Those were dark times,” Julian and Soo Teng recall. “We barely survived and could only minimize our losses.”
They were able to do this by focusing more on baking, launching events such as Donut Weekend and Bagels Wednesday.
As for cafes, they had to rely on food delivery platforms and offered set menus and discounts. They also tried a range of more affordable Malaysian dishes, but that didn’t work out.
The couple are hoping their new outlet, Kin by The Daily Fix, will be a hit. An ongoing challenge is also staffing, which they will need to overcome in order to open full hours for all of their outlets.
“We just have to be careful because times are still very uncertain,” the couple concluded on a realistic note.
As a lifelong fan, I appreciated their open sharing of their struggles over the past few years. As a Malaccan, I am proud to see their fighting spirit.
Personally, I can’t wait to see Kin revitalize The Daily Fix family, and you better believe I’ll be back every time I return to Melaka.
- Learn more about The Daily Fix here.
- Read more articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: The Daily Solution