Words by Candy Tee
Moon River Cake Shop first embarked on their mission to provide the Yew Tee neighbourhood a wide range of confectionery in 1998. In order to cater to residents from all walks of life, the shop operates close to 15 hours a day; from providing residents heading to work with breakfast, to brightening up one’s day with a snack, or two, after a hectic day at work. The aroma of fresh bakes wafting from the bakery greets residents as early as the wee hours before 7am, and the confectionery is also one of the last few shops in Yew Tee Square to close at 10pm.
Among their assortment of breakfast items, essential confectionery, and “nice to have” snacks and treats, their most popular item is invariably their birthday cake. With the wide range of selection and numerous designs, customers often have a hard time coming to a decision.
Making Waves in the Industry
Over the years, Moon River successfully standardized their retail operations and developed a strong team of pivotal staff. They even inaugurated their own set of Staff Training Manual. “We believe in maintaining the quality of our products. The Chinese saying of ‘己所不欲，勿施于人’ (to present others only with products that you would have yourself) has always been our motto for delivering happiness to all our customers,” shared Tang Yong, co-founder of Moon River Cake Shop. With everything in order, Tang Yong and her husband proceeded to set up another two retail outlets across Singapore and shifted their central production unit from a HDB shop to a food factory unit at foodXchange.
However, Moon River Cake Shop encountered ripples of challenges over the years. High and rising costs, as well as staff remuneration, are two issues that affected the bakery greatly.
Having been through two decades of baking, Moon River has seen a consistent climb in the cost of baking ingredients and raw materials. To maintain product quality, they are reluctant to substitute many of their ingredients with cheaper alternatives. Neither are they willing to transfer the rising cost to their consumers by increasing their product price, as they wish for their products to continue to be affordable essentials to their customers.
So instead, Tang Yong opted for a lean cost of production model to keep the confectionery’s baking cost at a “just right” level. Tang Yong devised a spreadsheet “system” for generating purchase orders of raw materials customised for Moon River. This “system” captures the quantity of each ingredient required based on the production plan that is input into it. Instructions for the raw materials can also be included in the purchase orders.
To lower overhead costs, Moon River also reduced their outlets to one, operating at the original retail outlet at Yew Tee, where they bake on-site.
Staff Training Cost
Unlike retail staff whom they can provide on-the-job training, baking staff have to be trained outside of the shop’s baking hours as it is impossible for Moon River’s existing bakers to simultaneously teach the new staff, and keep up with the shop’s regular production requirement. The ingredients and production cost of these “out-of-baking-hours” training sessions are costly and wastage is often incurred as trainees go through hands-on experimentation while practising.
To resolve the high cost of training, Tang Yong is looking at alternative training programmes like the Place and Train Programme by e2i. “I was recently introduced to e2i’s Place and Train programme by Creative Culinaire. Seeing how success stories were created through these programmes, Moon River looks forward to being part of the programme. I hope the programme can provide a solution to our difficulties and at the same time help with expanding our team,” expressed Tang Yong.
To manage the cost of hiring, Moon River currently adopts a variable remuneration structure, where members of the baking team are rewarded according to their contribution to the confectionery’s sales. This motivates the staff to perform at their best, as well as align manpower cost with changes in revenue.
To enhance the shoppers’ experience, Moon River is in the midst of developing an online cake-ordering system. Although it is not easy to lead my staff to move with technology and keep up with the trend, it remains an essential path we need to embark on. Before the end of the journey, I am sure they will discover their abilities to contribute more than their current capacity,” shared Tang Yong confidently. The online platform seeks to provide detailed information about their products, as well as cashless payment methods. For a confectionery store who adapts well to the tides and the challenges Time brings, this seems to be another project headed for success.
Moon River Cake Shop. 624 Choa Chu Kang St 62, #01-232, Yew Tee Square, Singapore 680624, Tel: 6764 4558