Dinner with Aston Soon was at Keypoint, a lesser ventured venue next to the Beach Road market where army boys be familiar with. When asked why he would want to open a branch at quite an ulu venue, Aston said sheepishly with a proud sparkle in the eye, “The other branches are too crowded.”
Sure enough, the branches at Suntec and Cathay have snakes of queue, especially during dinner and weekends. Aston, who is in his late 30s, achieved all this in a manner of few years. From a little coffeeshop stall at Katong, the chain expanded to an estimated 22 branches by the end of the year.
The bespectacled Aston arrived for the interview in a simple blue coloured Adidas tee and jeans, but went on instructing his staff and went through the numbers before he could properly sit down. Despite his success, he was unassuming and very down to earth.
This probably came from his humble beginnings as a kitchen staff at the now-defunct Ponderosa, and that was the start to the experimentation of various western cuisines. He explained that he was still very much a kopitiam and Asian food kind of person. He chuckled that he would visit his several wanton mee stall at Trembeling Road at least 10 times a month.
When Aston opened his first stall, he only aimed to break even and at most a little profit. But it was quality steak at affordable prices that kept people coming back. All these years, no GST and no service charge. When asked about his secret to success, he gave all credit to his family, staff, suppliers and customers who kept supporting him.
He also did not believe in keeping trade secrets from his loyal staff. He said he had no secrets. And would teach all he knew about cooking to his kitchen heads so that they could keep up with the same consistent taste.
For this dinner, I ordered a Wagyu Beef Burger priced at an inexpensive $9.90 nett. This burger was nothing fanciful, but it was all about how this Grade 5 beef could just retain its juicy goodness, soft texture and uncomplicated taste. No sauces or major condiments needed.
He urged me to try the iEat Super Burger the next time, perfected under the advice of Singapore’s most famous food blogger Dr Leslie Tay. Aston did not know who he was, but heeded his advice anyway. “I value my customer’s opinion, especially when they are serious about it.”
This was perhaps the spirit of Aston’s as well. Its success is not about fanciful marketing or promotions (it had almost none!); it is all keeping everything simple, and giving customers what they want.
Astons Specialities, 371 Beach Road #01-07 Keypoint Tel:+65 6295 6026
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 10pm Daily
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