Scrolling through CC by Mel’s Instagram page, I was drawn to the plating of its dishes that were garnished with colourful edible flowers. It looked like more than your average F&B spot.
The premium casual dining spot opened in January 2021, located in a residential Bukit Jalil neighbourhood. Not only was this the start of MCO 2.0, but the location itself is already a quiet one, with few passersby roaming around.
Despite those challenges, the 8-month-old CC by Mel is now raking in average revenue of RM200k per month.
From fresh flowers to fresh ingredients
Melanie Pong is the founder of CC by Mel. The entrepreneur was a home-based florist with the ambition of starting a florist studio to host workshops. A small portion of the studio would also be segmented as a cafe, so customers could have a cup of coffee while joining the classes.
But as the MCO struck, her floral business suffered, so she fell back on launching her cafe idea. Now came the question of what kind of food she would serve.
Being a fan of Japanese cuisine, she knew it would be a part of her dishes somehow. Wanting to stand out from the crowd of Japanese restaurants in KL, she decided to branch into fusion food.
“My passion for flowers also gave me the idea to infuse floral concepts into food. Therefore, I have decided to enhance my food presentation by using edible flowers, making sure that food would be colourful to attract customers and cameras,” Melanie told Vulcan Post.
Being a newcomer fighting for customers on crowded delivery platforms, CC by Mel’s decorated plates can give them an edge to differentiate themselves.
Carrying prices between RM22-RM68 for dishes like Smoked Duck Ramen and a Trio Taco Box, the cafe is certainly positioning itself as a premium casual dining spot. If you’re familiar with other premium casual restaurants like Calia Malaysia, these price points shouldn’t be surprising.
Melanie elaborated that the team also uses fresh ingredients, and all dishes are prepared within the same day of orders, instead of being pre-cooked. “I design it in a way that customers can get a premium dining experience at an affordable price while enjoying good Japanese-Western food,” she said.
But it began with losses
With an initial capital of RM150K, CC by Mel was supposed to start off with a small team of 2 chefs and 1 kitchen helper. As Melanie built up the cafe, she realised the budget wasn’t enough to cover the costliness of kitchen equipment. The team also kept growing as fresh ingredients required a lot of prep work, which meant more expenses were incurred.
What was supposed to be a little floral studio with an attached cafe has now materialised into a two-floor shop lot to accommodate both the kitchen and dining spaces.
As a new business, CC by Mel was in a tight cash position and made losses in its first 2 months. A heavy sum was spent on marketing to compete on delivery platforms that had high commissions with weekly payouts.
The cafe also had to pay ingredient suppliers with no credit terms provided because the company was in its infancy without a track record to prove its repayment loyalty.
Moreover, the team didn’t have sufficient data on the cafe’s output, and they were ordering ingredients based on estimates. This was a risk as most premium fresh products have a short shelf-life and excess will be considered as wastage.
“We did not have a proper system back then and always had to spend extra cost to get ingredients by GrabMart and Lalamove due to the inexperience in forecasting ingredients,” Melanie said.
Despite the whirlwind, Melanie shared that she had no regrets about launching CC by Mel during the lockdown.
“It’s a good chance for us to learn [about running a] surviving business during difficult moments like these and coming out with a perfect kitchen flow,” she said, optimistic. It likely came as good practice for the team too when the cafe was able to welcome diners in the short window of time between April to May 2021.
Things were looking up
CC by Mel finally began earning a profit with a 30% monthly growth rate. The short dine-in period was when more customers learnt about the brand.
Melanie forecasted that the Bukit Jalil location will be a strategic choice in the long run as it’s a developing neighbourhood with many residents who lack food options. “Customers in this area are mostly families or working adults and they have high purchasing and spending power,” she elaborated.
To date, Melanie reported that CC by Mel receives about 350 to 400 orders per week, which is how they’re generating a rough revenue of RM200k a month for now.
In the future where dine-ins are permitted again, Melanie targets to achieve a 10% monthly growth rate in sales at her cafe. Though she still hopes to have a space to host floral workshops, she addressed that CC by Mel would have to expand before that can occur, taking into account the already limited seating area at present.
Featured Image Credit: Melanie Pong, founder or CC by Mel
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