Could you please share with us your professional background?
My major professional background has always been in the hospitality industry, specialising in food and beverage. I did marketing in hotels too but it was for food and beverage outlets. Apart from hotels, I did work for McDonalds before but it was not long before I joined Starbucks Coffee Malaysia’s marketing team since it first opened Malaysia. Up until today, I have spent 14 years of my professional life with Starbucks. It is just like my own baby, proud to see it grew from one outlet to 131 nationwide.
What makes you love working at Starbucks?
Everything, because this is everybody’s third place, it is neither home nor office, it is something between both. This is how we position our brand because we want our patrons to feel free at our outlets and that is how we feel when we work for Starbucks, free and easy, just like your cup of coffee in the morning, very refreshing.
For instance, when tourists travel, one of the things that they do is to find Starbucks because this is the place they will not feel strange because the place for is inclusive.
I love striving to provide ambience and experience to patrons who walk into our stores. Another reason why I remain with Starbucks is because I am proud of it and it is the result of all our hard work since day one. I have seen so much success and smiles that walk out of our door due to simple Cappuccino or Espresso.
We may not be able to provide our patrons happiness but at least we offer the place where everyone feels belonged. Seeing it grow into what it is today is one of my best personal achievements. After having said that, Starbucks is still young and I firmly believe that its potential will exceed my expectation.
In your personal opinion, what are Starbucks’ strengths that make it distinct from its competitors?
From what I observe, the strength of Starbucks lies in its people, our staff. Our approach in entertaining clients is different from our competitors because our service level is way ahead. We give space to our employees to show their personalities when serving our customers.
Our employees possess certain characteristics that make them special. The second strength that we have is the environment that we offer to our customers. As I mentioned earlier, we do not make our patrons feel either at home or at work place, we make them feel at Starbucks.
And last but not least, of course our very own Starbucks coffee. The coffee that we serve has undergone lengthy process and research in order to be among the best, for instance the Starbucks VIA instant coffee that was the result of 20 years of research.
At Starbucks, we believe that coffee is the catalyst to many things and so, the coffee that we serve must charge us up with positivity. Our commitment in providing the coffee starts from the first step, which is to choose the right coffee beans, where we seek for plantations throughout the world that grow the finest coffee beans. With these three strengths, we manage to carve up our own advantage ahead of competitors.
What accomplishments has Starbucks Coffee Malaysia achieved after being 14 years in Malaysia?
We have achieved a lot in terms of outlet growth, corporate social responsibility and reaching out to people to create appreciation towards coffee. To date, we have 131 stores nationwide and we are expecting to open another outlet in Bukit Bintang despite having six outlets already there. This is how we try to cater to the demands from our patrons. We are now extending our market to smaller areas, for instance Manjung in Perak. We have penetrated Borneo long before our competitors.
Penang is our biggest where Starbucks will become everybody’s third place. Starbucks strives to be the place that people feel comfortable and safe, where they can enjoy good time even though being surrounded by strangers. When we are matured enough, we are sure that someday, the people from both cities and the outskirts will get to enjoy our hospitality and coffee. We are now exploring the outskirts with the opening of the Manjung outlet.
We look forward to a successful operation, including the opening of more outlets in these untapped areas. We also continuously explore more variety of food and beverage to suit the markets and we are confident that we will succeed.
Market after Klang Valley, while Johor Bahru comes third. Other than that, our success in educating the public about what coffee is about – from Espresso to Cappuccino to Latte to any coffee product at all – is the priceless achievement that we are very proud of.
During our early years, people did not really know what Espresso was. When they ordered Espresso, they were shocked to be served in a tiny cup. Nowadays, patrons are savvier and know what they want and what they are ordering.
How far do you think Starbucks Coffee Malaysia has played its role in meeting the food and beverage needs in Malaysia?
The good thing about Starbucks is that it is a global brand and everywhere people go, they recognise the brand. We may not be offering the staple food for everybody but we offer food and beverage that everybody can eat so we become an international food hub for tourists from all over the world.
Starbucks is everywhere in Malaysia and even the moment the tourists come into the country, be it from KLIA or LCCT, Starbucks outlets are there to greet them. For tourists who just arrived at a new place, food is crucial and being able to find something familiar is very relieving. This is where Starbucks plays its role. We also want the tourists to feel safe and comfortable when they are sipping coffee in our outlets hence the concept.
What are your hopes and dreams for Starbucks Coffee Malaysia?
Well I prefer not to call it a hope or a dream but rather an event that will soon happen where Starbucks will become everybody’s third place. Starbucks strives to be the place that people feel comfortable and safe, where they can enjoy good time even though being surrounded by strangers.
When we are matured enough, we are sure that someday, the people from both cities and the outskirts will get to enjoy our hospitality and coffee.
We are now exploring the outskirts with the opening of the Manjung outlet. We look forward to a successful operation, including the opening of more outlets in these untapped areas. We also continuously explore more variety of food and beverage to suit the markets and we are confident that we will succeed.