Remember when food trucks were the biggest trend in town? At the peak of the trend between 2014 and 2015, the food truck industry boomed because it offered great tasting food to Malaysians at very low prices.
But while many food truck owners were successful, few were able to take their businesses into traditional shop spaces and continue serving the same great food at the same affordable prices.
Perhaps it requires a great deal of luck, or maybe it all comes down to having a crazy amount of willpower in one’s bones.
As the case of Little Fat Duck shows, hard work and a clear vision were mandatory in the business’ transition from food truck to mall outlet.
Three years after it first arrived on wheels, the business has moved into eight mall outlets across KL, Seri Kembangan, Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam and Subang Jaya.
Adel Ishak, 29, one of two co-founders of the restaurant known for its RM5 pasta specials, tells Business Insider that it took many hours of backbreaking work to even get their food truck business off the ground.
In the early days of starting their food truck business, each working day would stretch as long as 10 to 15 hours, especially when there wasn’t enough manpower to deal with the long queues.
You would think that spending an enormous amount of energy on maintaining a food truck would calm one’s desire to do even more, but that wasn’t the case for Adel and his partner Adi Ong, also 29.
On the contrary, Adel says starting a chain of restaurants was a decision that “came naturally” to them.
“We started to get enquiries for the brand so we devised ways to license our business.
“It would really set us back if we opened our own outlets (because that would) cost huge amounts of money,” he says.
As expected, there were fears at the back of their minds – Would they be able to cope with growth? Would they have enough manpower? Would there be enough money? Would they be able to manage licensees?
Without any prior experience, the two young men decided this was one “alien” thing they would try to do anyway.
So far, their strategy has worked very well. They’ve managed to keep their RM5 menu, with a different “pasta of the day” on offer from Mondays to Fridays.
Little Fat Duck’s operations today are split between the partners. Adi handles back-end operations such as legal work, design and finances, while Adel is in charge of keeping day-to-day operations in check, which includes making sure that the stores are growing and sales targets are being met.
Back in the day though, Adi and Adel had to take the smallest problems upon themselves.
“When we had the food truck we had to do everything ourselves from repairing lights and gas stoves to changing the tyres,” he recalls.
Being new to the business, the two young men also found themselves in trouble with some local governments for not having the proper paperwork needed to sell food from their truck.
These were tough lessons but such haphazard beginnings were important, because the duo quickly learned important business lessons, including how to store, prepare and serve food in hot and humid Malaysia where food can go bad easily.
This year, Little Fat Duck achieved one of its biggest goals and was awarded a Halal certificate from Jakim. This is a big step forward, Adel tells us, as it will allow the business to grow outside of Klang Valley.
Competitive pricing has been sort of a magic formula for Little Fat Duck’s success, and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t take off outside of the big city, especially since its owners are continually looking to hone their expansion strategy by learning from others.
Adel says he is inspired mostly by other entrepreneurs who conduct their businesses “in the most basic way possible”.
From night market stall holders to luxury restaurateurs, Adel says some of the best lessons come from successful businesspeople who “do things which are just so basic and simple”.