Sour story of food business — by Manis Manis

We went for lunch at Manis Manis today, a fav hangout of my sister, mum and her maid, the ever picky Siti, though not for me, mainly because I hate open carparks and at Turf City where MM is, one can only park in the open.

The lunch was as usual uneventful and not too pricey with the Es Avocado at $2.50 a pop the high-point of the meal for everyone, especially me.

However, today after the meal, I got a bonus nugget of information — which for me was the high point — though for the Manis Manis owner it was probably the low point.

It started with me pointing out that his receipt printer appears to have run out of ink and his replying no, it’s not the ink; just that the printer was old but he wasn’t about to spend several thousand dollars to replace it… his voice trailed off.

I asked empathetically: “You are planning to close?”

His body language signalled yes, but he didn’t say so, not in so many words. Instead he gave me the maths.

“You know, if I’ve 100 customers per day, my cost is $9 per head, before food cost. And you know how full I must be to have 100 customers? Two full house! And if I’ve only 50 customers, my cost per head is $18.”

I did a quick calculation in my head. Our bill for 3 (mum, maid and me, as sister was at home languishing over a dreaded event) came to $34. So, if Manis Manis serves fewer than 100 pax today, the owner would surely not make anything from us.

Mr Owner, ex-Seagate man, still wasn’t done. He told me the rent was low — and I must agree it is, at $6,000 a month for a place that’s easily about 2,000 sq ft with good frontage. But add in staff costs and aircon, water and electricity and the fixed costs mount, he confided.

Still, Mr Owner isn’t throwing in the towel yet, as food is his hobby he said, and his inheritance because his family has a long history in the food business. Moreover, when he took over the premises, the previous tenant had spent $300,000 on renovations and that he said “is my profit”.

Seeing how Manis Manis is struggling in far away Bukit Timah, I wonder just how Imperial Treasure Windows on Hong Kong with its $6 per head or less meal at Triple 1 Somerset is going to keep cooking up good food and service at those prices!

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