We welcomed the second season of Zeemart Inspirational Champions Series with Michel Lu. Michel Lu teaches F&B entrepreneurship at Singapore Management University (SMU), while also running consultancy businesses in Singapore, Jakarta, and Hong Kong.
“There’s no black and white in F&B, F&B is so much more than just food,” said Michel as he explained that F&B is about good-enough food at the right price point, the right location, and the right level of service.
Having two decades of experience as an owner and operator in F&B, venture capital, and lifestyle businesses in Asia, Michel shared that he was originally interested in robotics for the F&B industry, not for saving labour costs, but more for creating a new frontier to fill in the gap in the market. He thought of setting up the first fully robotic fine dining omakase restaurant, where customers leave it to the chef (or in this case robots) to serve seasonal specialties in a countertop style.
He eventually shelved that idea and pursued the spirits business instead, setting up a beverage company called Liquid Assets, fronting the brand, The Orientalist Spirits, the world’s first pan-Asian craft spirits brand. Their unique spirits were infused with ingredients and spices all over Asia. He then further developed a hops sparkling water, which was praised by all who tried.
Back in SMU, Michel encourages his students to broaden their minds and look at the F&B industry differently, instead of starting a single cafe or bar, perhaps go for something that scales up like food production. Michel also shared that one of the students he mentored is went on to start a successful cold brew production that helps companies like Chye Seng Huat to make their own specialty brew.
He fully agrees that starting a business in the F&B industry is never easy, as there is a high percentage closure in the business. However, he also mentioned that the percentage of failing decreases significantly for those who have been trying and trying again, learning from their failures every time. Such examples are groups like Lo And Behold and Unlisted Collection.
Lastly, Michel shared that upcoming entrepreneurs need to be able to take risks and not depend largely on government-aided funds, be kept up-to-date on the latest market changes, and grab any opportunities open to them.
We would like to thank Michel Lu for being our guest for the evening.