Mr Say Lip Hai migrated to Singapore from Hainan Island, China and picked up British culinary skills when he worked as a cook boy for British troops. After gaining sufficient experience, he started his first restaurant, Cola Restaurant and Bar, in 1967 to cater to British and Commonwealth troops. In 1968, Mr Say was invited to take over the kitchen of a pub in Killiney Road owned by Jack Hunt and this eventually led to the birth of Jack’s Place Steak House.
Today, JP Pepperdine, the holding company for Jack’s Place and other restaurants, is run by the 2nd and 3rd generation family members.
Mr Jerry Lim, of the 3rd generation in the family business, spent his school holidays learning the ropes of the business since he was 14 years of age. Mr Lim’s mother would send him to the restaurants to work and gain experience in different roles such as being a waiter, mise en place (the kitchen staff responsible for preparing the ingredients that a cook will require for the menu items) and even a dish washer.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Economics, Money, Banking and Information Management degree from an Australian university, Mr Lim did not jump straight into his family’s business. He chose to start his career in a job that was related to his university major and worked at OCBC as a financial consultant. His first job made him realize that he wanted to exercise more creativity in his work and this prompted him to return to JP Pepperdine when the company began to explore opportunities in China. Mr Lim assumed the appointment of Business Development Executive and was in charge of the operational aspects of Jack’s Place outlets when he led the company’s regional expansion to Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Lim considers himself a steward of his family’s business. His motivation to work hard comes from knowing the impact that he can make to the lives of the people who work with JP Pepperdine. He tries his best to inculcate a strong family culture because, like in most food and beverage (F&B) establishments, employees spend most of their time at work.
For Mr Lim, his main challenge is to find “the next pot of gold”. The F&B industry faces intense competition due to its low barriers to entry. JP Pepperdine has never been a company that rests on its laurels. It is constantly on the lookout for trends and opportunities. For instance, it acquired Restaurant Hoshigaoka and obtained franchising rights for Kkongdon Barbeque to capitalize on the Japanese and Korean waves respectively.
Today, after rotating through various corporate functions over more than 10 years, Mr Lim is the Chief Operations Officer responsible for restaurants operations. He manages his family’s 26 restaurants and ensures that they are properly staffed and that their food and service are of top quality. To Mr Lim, the relationship, the care and concern for each other and close ties amongst colleagues are very important ingredients of business sucesss.