Dian Xiao Er
Any visit to Dian Xiao Er would transport one back in time, into an ancient Chinese inn adorned with lanterns, Chinese calligraphy and rustic wooden furniture.
Dian Xiao Er’s specialty is its Herbal Roast Duck – crispy golden brown on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. Its success has seen the company expand to 10 outlets today. It would surprise most that the owner of this chain of restaurants did not start off his career in the F&B Industry, but rather as an auditor and subsequently as an accountant.
After working as a professional auditor and accountant for 6 years, Mr Samuel Yik decided to start his own enterprise, having been inspired by the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. The author of the book, Robert Kiyosaki, had described two methods that could be employed in supplying water to a small village: using more pails to draw water versus building a water pipe. He likened the first method to one working as an employee, expending more energy to earn more money. However, he had compared building a water pipe to one starting a business or investing, which may lead to greater rewards in the long term. Mr Samuel Yik wanted to, in his words, “let his money work for him” and was convinced that he should strike it out on his own.
Mr Yik always had an entrepreneurship streak in him. Growing up in a poor family, he was always thinking of ways to make more money. During the fighting fish craze in his younger days, he bought fighting fish in bulk from the market and sold them to his schoolmates for a profit. When his peers were collecting stamps, he ordered complete stamp collections and sold them individual pieces that they desired. Knowing that his schoolmates liked Nonya food, he sourced for them and sold them in school.
How then, did a professional accountant venture into the F&B Industry? While auditing hotels, he learnt that ovens were often used to prepare western cuisine. This made him wonder why ovens were not similarly used to prepare Chinese cuisine. He experimented with the ovens and found them to be not only highly effective but also consistent in roasting ducks. In addition, there were also business reasons that spurred Mr Samuel Yik to venture into F&B, such as the perpetual demand for good food, the cash nature of the business, and the relatively low barriers to entry.
However, it was not all smooth sailing for Mr Yik. Dian Xiao Er’s journey was especially trying at the beginning. In 2003, the restaurant was affected by the SARS pandemic which led to people staying at home instead of dining out. In 2004, the H5N1 avian flu resulted in restrictions in the import of poultry. However, Mr Yik and his team persevered and made it through those tough times. His advice for budding entrepreneurs is that a good business idea is insufficient. They should also be realistic and prepared to work hard. He also advises that they should never take short cuts at the expense of long term success.
Mr Samuel Yik enjoys interacting with his customers and employees. Loyal patrons and workers motivate him and keep him going. In his free time, you can always find this smiling, hands-on entrepreneur at his restaurants helping in every way he can. Do not be surprised if he is the one taking your order or serving you food the next time you dine at Dian Xiao Er!