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Creating Unforgettable Epicurean Experiences with 159atas

Words by Julia Chan

Providing quality and finesse with value and accessibility using technology

Nestled in a restored pre-1800s shophouse at 159A Telok Ayer Street, an F&B startup 159atas specialises in artisanal wines and meat grilling via its restaurant Zodiac Wine Bistro. The founders of 159atas put extra care to source and assess farmed produce offered to customers using the parameter of terroir (a combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives produce their distinctive character).

As 159atas believes that quality and finesse should co-exist with value and accessibility, having a safe and efficient work environment enables its staff to serve guests well with great food and wine.

Nicola, co-founder and Director of 159atas, explained, “Our business philosophy is providing a safe environment for its employees to work in and at the same time to provide food production with consistency.”

The company hires a mix of workers across ages (one third are above the age of 60), and more than half of its nine employees are Singaporean.

Nicola said, “We have a good mixture of elderlies and youngsters. People would be surprised to see that we actually blend together very well. Our safe working environment that is high in efficiency has enabled us to be happy and creative.”

In its pursuit of excellence, 159atas had embarked on a productivity drive to phase out its manual processes for its ordering, tracking, reporting, and food and beverage preparation.

In the past, staff used a combination of paper and Excel to manage orders, customers’ details and consolidate and generate reports. Food and beverage preparation was also tedious and inefficient as well.

For example, food was processed and cooked manually using kitchen equipment like small kitchen ovens, pots and pans over open fire, and staff had to closely monitor the food to prevent over or undercooking. There was a lack of refrigerator space which meant food had to prepared in small batches repetitively. Coffees were made based on ‘best estimation’ of different components, one cup at a time.

How did this F&B startup leverage on technology to create a safe and efficient work environment?

159atas applied for the WorkPro Job Redesign initiative via NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i). With e2i’s support, it purchased and implemented systems and kitchen equipment which would create physically easier, safer, and smarter jobs for its local workers aged 50 years and above. 

It invested in a point-of-sales (POS), E-Ordering, Inventory, Kitchen and Customer Relationship Management System to automate ordering, sales transaction, inventory tracking and reporting processes.

Nicola shared, “We used to take orders manually which is very inefficient and leaves room for human errors. The equipment as supported by e2i enables us to increase efficiency and decrease human errors.”

“Orders made through POS are sent directly to the kitchen for processing. It is generated in an orderly manner to help our employees in identifying and passing the food to the correct customers or prepare for delivery. This also minimises the human errors from wrong interpretation of any illegible handwriting communication,” she said.

“Utilising the tablet to take orders enables us to save time, and the time saved is used to provide better service to our customers.” – Shermaine Soh, 159atas staff

“Furthermore, the kitchen production was a little slow because of the traditional methods of cooking that were utilised. The equipment – Combi Oven enables us to perform various cooking procedures such as roasting, baking, etc. The whole cooking and delivery process with pre-programming is consistent and faster; doubling the amount of food cooked. The time saved was used to prepare other food items and increase our overall efficiency,” Nicola elaborated.

“We used to spend so much time processing different orders, but now, we are able to process food in a much faster and efficient method.” - Soh Eng Huat, a 159atas kitchen staff who saved time with the new Combi Oven

159atas purchased a blast freezer which has a much greater capacity than its old freezers. The blast freezer can quick freeze food products to retain its moisture and extend their shelf life. As more ingredients can be stocked in the blast freezer, kitchen assistants can pre-prepare and store large amounts of sauces and ingredients at one go, saving up to a few hours a day.

“This (the blast freezer) will eliminate repeating the preparation of the sauces/cut ingredients and save up a few hours in a day”. - Lim Teck Siew, a kitchen assistant who reduced repetitive work with 159atas’ new blast freezer

To make good coffee consistently and quickly, 159atas purchased a fully automatic coffee machine and grinder which are programmable. Staff could effectively control the temperature and the amount of water and ingredients to be dispensed in each cup of coffee, and make double the coffee in the same time to better serve busy customers working in the Central Business District area.

“We are able to process 2 cups of coffee with consistency at the same time which reduces queues and complaints.” - Neo Pek Keow, a Service Crew whose productivity increased with the fully automatic coffee machine and grinder

Nicola said, “We strongly believe in not only working hard, but more importantly working smart.” Overall, 159atas cut down man-hours by at least 30%, and processes were more streamlined and standardised. At least three of its staff above 50 years old received a wage increment and better jobs as well.

To learn more about 159atas and its unforgettable epicurean and lifestyle experiences, visit https://159atas.sg/zodiac

All photos courtesy of 159atas.

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