Wealth Management

Tea with bubbles and pork buns: How David Loh is dominating the Melbourne hospitality scene

Yolanda Redrup /

The son of a single Mum, David Loh learnt the foundations of business from his Mother.

Having arrived in Australia as a young boy, Loh spent each weekend from the age of 12 through till 20 working with his mum at the St Andrews market.

The pair and his two siblings would sell miscellaneous items, everything from statues to essential oils, and Loh says this gave him a sense of the “entrepreneurial skill” required to sell a product.

In high school he furthered this skill by buying floppy disks in bulk, writing computer games to the disks and selling them to his friends and even the school itself.

Following high school Loh went onto study accounting, but after working in a firm he realised he didn’t want to sit behind a desk. This inspired him to create the well-known Melbourne franchise Bubble Cup in 2000.

In a humble beginning, Bubble Cup started with Loh and his friends mixing products and trying different concoctions in a friend’s apartment, but the venture was a quick success and in 2008 Loh sold the franchise.

On the back of Bubble Cup, Loh has gone onto create five more ventures in the food and beverage industry: Food Republik, Dessert Story, Shop House, Taiwan Café and most recently Rice Workshop.

Collectively the restaurants and stores are now turning over $3 million annually. Loh spoke to SmartCompany about his motivations behind the stores, expanding overseas and building customer knowledge.

Name: David Loh

Company: Food Republik, Dessert Story, Shop House, Taiwan Café and Rice Workshop

Location: Melbourne, Victoria

Mornings

Running five restaurants keeps Loh on his toes, so he dedicates his morning to spending time with his daughter.

“I drop her off at childcare and then I come home and go back to bed,” he says.

“My day starts later, but also finishes later. I start work around 10am from my home computer where I check my emails.”

Daily life

For the large part of the day Loh spends his time going between his restaurants to ensure everything is up to standard.

“I go to Box Hill first and have a coffee. I have an office in Port Melbourne and I have a small team of people who work with me on the accounting aspects and the admin of the business, so I’ll go there next and then I’ll go to all the restaurants and eat the food to make sure the quality is maintained.”

At night Loh is frequently in communication with people in China, as he’s currently in the process of expanding Dessert Story as a franchise into China’s Fujian province.

“People were coming to me and saying they loved Dessert Story and then we were asked if we’d like to partner up and open in China, so we said okay,” he says.

David-loh-600

“Nights can be spent meeting people from overseas and talking to the leasing people to get our locations right.”

Within the restaurants, Loh also makes an effort to engage with the customers, so don’t be surprised if you see him serving you a meal.

His inspiration for the restaurants comes from his love of food and the cuisines and dishes he and his wife favour.

“I like to do the food I love, my wife and I used to go to Japanese restaurants all the time, so it’s a personal thing I have,” he says.

“I’ve been pretty blessed in the sense that I have strategically looked at what the food and beverage market is missing and thought about what people want to eat and then been able to fit into that model.”

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