The last time we heard about Crystal Jade was when Stanchart invested close to S$70 million in Crystal Jade Group Holdings for its overseas expansion in June this year. Many of us should be familiar with this home-grown brand.

I saw my old post about Crystal Jade being shared again, and noticed this Facebook entry, written by a son of an old-time Crystal Jade employee.

This is a look at what possibly led to Crystal Jade’s success and growth in the past.

Its leader, and its staff.

(In my rough translation) My mother has worked for 10 years with Crystal Jade. Today, she received the message to make a trip down to the Vivocity branch….

Basically, after many years of negotiation, Crystal Jade was finally sold for a hundred US million dollars.

But what I did not expect was for Mr Ip to return the money back to the old employees who worked with Crystal Jade throughout the years.

It will be sensitive for me to reveal the exact amount as staff gets different sums based on seniority and position. In short, they each received an amount equivalent to several months of bonuses.

He did not need to do that. Because no one would expect that, especially after the company has already been acquired.

Your former boss returning to give you money and appreciation.

Such a businessman, which values relationship with staff, is worthy of our admiration and respect. Really.”

It was reported that these employees received up to $40k bonuses each (the mother that was mentioned in the Facebook post received 3.5 times her pay), and they all received their cheques directly from Mr Ip.

This reminded me of what was told to me by Mr Ip personally, that he owned the success of the restaurant chain to his staff, and he would generally employ the ‘uncle-auntie’ type who were genuine in serving families.

He sees them like his family members, visit his restaurants every single day of his work day, and there is not one branch he hasn’t personally been to. Looks like he showed his appreciation, all the way till the very end. Yes, respect.

[Original entry dated 30th April 2014] French luxury group buys over Crystal Jade. Not exactly a piece of news I am excited about. I am proud of this home-grown brand, and think that some tastes are best left untouched. Just my view.

The home-grown Chinese restaurant chain was bought over by Paris-based luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which is set to market and brand Crystal Jade further with expansions to Europe and the Middle East.

Why shouldn’t I be happy for a Singapore brand to spread its wings overseas?

Let’s take a look back home first. We are in a situation where we are losing our hawkers; foodcourts graduating towards manufactured unauthentic tastes; independent cafes and restaurants are shutting like nobody’s business; and high rentals plus labour crunch is squeezing the F&B industry left-right-centre.

Are we in deep s***?

Now, a home-growth successful restaurant brand we can proudly call our own is taken over by a luxury company. Not just a minor percentage of the stakes, but over 90 per cent of ownership.

Crystal Jade has been the restaurant I find comfort Chinese food, and where families celebrate numerous special occasions such as birthdays.

How much would this change in time to come?

Can I ask you why Crystal Jade is so successful, and why do local families love to frequent it?

It is really not just about the food. Because frankly, Crystal Jade’s has strong competitors in the likes of Imperial Treasure, Paradise and other smaller players which offer quality Chinese food, if not a notch better in presentation.

To me, it is the heart, the core, the service.

If you have observed long enough, a majority of Crystal Jade’s service staff are the ‘auntie’ type, the older experienced workers who have probably been there since Year One.

Sure, some of them may sound arrogant (may be typical Cantonese restaurant fashion), but many provide that very homely feel, fussing over your meals and make appropriate recommendations for your mother-in-law.

Crystal Jade group chairman and CEO Mr Ip Yiu Tung once shared with me that the restaurants success can be solely attributed to its people. His staff who stays with the company year-in-year-out, journeying with customers through good times and recessions.

Mr Ip himself would visit his restaurants every day of his work day. He shared that there is no one restaurant he hasn’t personally been to.

That to me, is the heart of doing a food business well. (Of course, I am thinking of the naïve non-monetary way.)

Perhaps Crystal Jade will still expand with its Hors d’œuvre Xiao Long Bao or Poulet à la Mian, and still retains that unique family ambience. Who knows? Yes, who knows?

I conducted an interview conducted with Mr Ip Yiu Tung years ago and you can sense his dedication to staff and family.

* I end this post with a heart-fed Thank You to the Crystal Jade uncles and aunties for your dedication to work, the delicious dishes you cook, and smiles when serving my family when we dine there for birthdays and special celebrations. Almost always a good meal there.


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