Founder Bak Kut Teh appeals to customers as business plummets amid pandemic

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·3-min read
The Founder Bak Kut Teh chain of restaurants appealed to customers for support on 15 July 2020 to avoid shutting for good as business plummeted during COVID-19 restrictions. The picture on the right is of the Bugis outlet. (Photos: Founder Bak Kut Teh)
The owner of Founder Bak Kut Teh has appealed to customers for support to keep the business afloat. (Photos: Founder Bak Kut Teh)

SINGAPORE — The second-generation owner of Founder Bak Kut Teh has called on customers for help to keep the chain of restaurants afloat as business plummeted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nigel Chua, son of the brand’s founder, Chua Chwee Whatt, said in an open letter to customers on Wednesday (15 July) that business had dropped by 85% in the past five months, and the restaurants would have to close if business did not pick up in the next two months.

The signature dish of the restaurant chain, which was established in 1978, is its bak kut teh (pork ribs in herbal broth).

Nigel said Founder Bak Kut Teh would offer customers special set menus at a 30% discount from 17 July to 17 August in order to encourage them to dine at its restaurants.

These discounted menus will be offered at Founder Bak Kut Teh’s Hotel Boss, Bugis and Downtown East outlets. The promotion is not valid for the flagship outlet on Balestier Road. (See below for details of these set menus.)

The father and son that manage the Founder Bak Kut Teh restaurants: founder Chua Chwee Whatt (right) and his son, Nigel Chua. (Photo: Founder Bak Kut Teh)
The father and son that manage the Founder Bak Kut Teh restaurants: founder Chua Chwee Whatt (right) and his son, Nigel Chua. (Photo: Founder Bak Kut Teh)

“We are in a dire situation. Business is bad; really bad,” said Nigel in his letter posted on Facebook and Instagram. “We have been keeping our business afloat by relying on takeaway and deliveries since the outbreak of Covid-19, but our efforts are still insufficient. If this continues, Founder Bak Kut Teh will not tide through the pandemic.

“We heaved sighs of relief when Phase 2 (of reopening) was announced and dine-in, finally permitted. My dad was elated, grinning from ear to ear, and gleefully headed down to the restaurant in the wee hours to prepare the aromatic Bak Kut Teh broth himself. We were hopeful that the situation would turn for the better. But we were wrong. Even now, we continue to walk into our empty restaurants with no diners in sight. In our 42 years of business, these few months are the most tiring, trying and difficult.”

Founder Bak Kut Teh counts many celebrities among its fans, including pop singers Jay Chou, Jam Hsiao, and Eason Chan as well as film stars Chow Yun Fatt and Charmaine Sheh.

Nigel said tourists, who make up a significant proportion of the chain’s customers, could not patronise the restaurants now because of travel restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

“We do not wish to close our doors but we desperately need your help,” said Nigel.

Nigel appealed for customers to call ahead of visiting restaurants to make reservations, in light of social distancing requirements.

These are the telephone numbers of the three outlets offering the special promotions:

Hotel Boss outlet: 6816 2582⁣
Bugis outlet: 6255 3889⁣
Downtown East outlet: 6344 2588

Founder Bak Kut Teh promotion at the Hotel Boss outlet from 17 July 2020 to 17 August 2020. (Source: Founder Bak Kut Teh)
Founder Bak Kut Teh promotion at the Hotel Boss outlet from 17 July 2020 to 17 August 2020. (Source: Founder Bak Kut Teh)
Founder Bak Kut Teh promotion at the Bugis and Downtown East outlets from 17 July 2020 to 17 August 2020. (Source: Founder Bak Kut Teh)
Founder Bak Kut Teh promotion at the Bugis and Downtown East outlets from 17 July 2020 to 17 August 2020. (Source: Founder Bak Kut Teh)