Mr. Fredrick Puah

Founder of Chain Restaurant: British Hainan

Seeing me in the restaurant business now, you will be surprised that I was a mechanical engineer. In the 1970s, engineer was a respectable job. I might have continued this path without any surprise. But encounters in life are so magical at times. At some inadvertent moment, fate pushed me in another direction.

It was 1977, I was sent by the company to train in Japan, usually after the training, in Japanese culture we would go to unwind with colleagues at small snack bars, where I experienced the charm of karaoke. I was deeply impressed by it. After returning to Singapore, soon after serving my contract , I decisively set up a small entertainment company and worked as emcee and resident singer. My conservative parents were never optimistic about the entertainment industry believing that this was not a proper job. However, I was supportive of culture and art although in terms of social identity, my second career is far less glamorous than the first one. Nonetheless, it gave me an unprecedented sense of self-identity.

I was slowly reaching the age of retirement. Yet, I am a person who cannot stay idle, after discussing with the family, we unanimously decided to open a restaurant. People love food, and food brings people together. This is an eternal truth, however, with so many competitors and not every one succeeded. However I believed that specialisation and differentiation were the goals we had to follow. Hence, our objective from beginning till now is to provide star-rated services to make diners feel at home with enthusiasm is the way to promote customer loyalty.

My father worked for the British in Colonial House for some time in his early years. At that time, he learned a dish from the British chef called oxtail stew which is such rare delicacy in my memory. I decided to use this dish as the signature of my restaurant. Good oxtail is not easy to find nowadays. Only 12 restaurants in Singapore are serving this dish. I improved upon the recipe left by my father, and this dish won unanimous praise from diners as soon as it was launched.

During this period, I also took the suggestions of diners and perfected the formula.

In 2014, our British Hainan’s oxtail stew was ranked by Google as one of the top three as best oxtail stews in Singapore.

Many diners came to savour this dish. I would usually recommend the two other top three restaurants serving oxtail. Some said I was silly to give away customers? In fact, more customers were impressed with my self-confidence and became our loyal customers notwithstanding this.

A good restaurant makes people stay. In addition to its wonderful taste, it is more about its ambiance and services too.

I love to collect vintage articles and I personally designed and decorated every one of the British Hainan restaurants. Our restaurants display my private collections for many years as I like to share my favourite collections with my customers. We will greet them with “Welcome home”. We want to treat customers as family members and treat them with sincerity. We believe that when customers feel at home, they are more willing to share feedback on our dishes and services like a family, thus helping us to continue improving.

The good reviews on social media over the years have strengthened the reputation of British Hainan. During this pandemic, it was by word of mouth through social media that helped us pull through this extremely challenging period.

My father used to tell me, “If you can’t sharpen the knife through hard work, you can still make the knife shine.” It means that through hard work and perseverance, you will be able to overcome insurmountable obstacles.

The best service is to make diners feel at home.

Mr. Fredrick Puah