In 1985 Tan Kim Siong, then 15, dropped out of school to work full-time in a street vendor’s stall.
From the age of 13 he helped his grandmother in her Teochew fish ball noodle shop and also worked as an assistant for other street vendors.
Those stays helped him get a full-time job cooking in a fishball noodle shop in Bukit Batok in the mid-1980s.
In 1995 he went into business for himself with a rental booth in the Hawker Center outside the former national library, which signals the beginnings of the Fei Siong Group.
The stand proved to be a lucrative business, and the following year it quickly opened another store in Woodlands.
Over the next five years he opened about ten branches and brought his brothers Tan Kim Beng and Tan Kim Leng into the business.
Kim Beng, 49, had dropped out of elementary school while Kim Leng, 44, was studying at Ngee Ann Polytechnic before deciding to leave Fei Siong Group.
Together, the Kim brothers continuously expanded into various brands and business models, making the Fei Siong Group the successful F&B empire it is today.
Almost 15 brands under his helmet
Malaysia Boleh, a brand of the Fei Siong Group / Photo credit: SG Food on Foot
From food stalls in coffee shops and hawker centers, the Fei Siong Group managed to expand to managing grocery stores, specialty stores and food courts.
Some of the brands in the F&B empire are EAT, Encik Tan, and the Ci Yuan Hawker Center.
Photo credit: Screenshot by Fei Siong Group
The group manages a total of 157 branches across Singapore and employs over 1,500 people.
According to an interview with The Straits Times, the group’s “biggest breakthrough” came with the launch of the 7,000 square foot Malaysia Boleh! in 2012.
Five years after opening the food court to many fans, it was expanded to double the area with an additional 15 stands.
Photo credit: Boleh Boleh
The latest addition to the Fei Siong Group’s brand repertoire is Boleh Boleh – Singapore’s largest pork food court.
The new food court in Clementi Mall has 28 stalls ranging from the famous Clayal Chicken Rice on Petaling Street to the famous Chendol on Penang Road.
Giving back to society
Photo credit: Fei Siong Group
In addition to running the Fei Siong Group, the three brothers routinely give something back to society.
When taxi drivers were badly hit by the breaker last year, the group announced a collaboration with NTUC and SMRT Taxis to offer free grocery delivery services.
As part of the deal, SMRT taxi drivers brought Fei Siong delivery assistants around for a fixed rate of S $ 20 an hour. The drivers were paid for by Fei Siong and SMRT Taxis.
The group also routinely sponsors community initiatives. Last December, they donated $ 5,000 worth of food vouchers to about 140 families at the Singapore Muslim Women’s Association (PPIS) Student Care Center.
In addition, in 2015 Fei Siong started an entrepreneurship program aimed at preserving the local hawker food among the younger generation.
As part of the program, participants were trained to be street vendors with a monthly salary of S $ 3,000 for the first three months before opening their own stands.
According to a report by The New Paper, the program was so well received that it had to be suspended due to the overwhelming response.
Successful despite tough competition
It’s no secret that the competition in Singapore’s F&B scene is extremely fierce as consumers everywhere have a wide choice.
During their trip, the Fei Siong Group also experienced some setbacks, such as the demise of their Chinese restaurant Royal London Duck and Spanish restaurant La Cala.
Nevertheless, the Fei Siong Group has managed to successfully create a niche for itself in the local F&B scene.
Over the past 25 years, the company has grown from a humble fishball noodle stand to an F&B company that owns nearly 15 brands.
Last year the group had sales of almost S $ 150 million.
You need to be hungry and not be afraid of hard work. You must also treat people well. My staff is my family.
Managing Director of the Fei Siong Group, Tan Kim Siong in an interview with The Straits Times
Selected image source: PressReader / Capitaland