Home-grown Founder Bak Kut Teh closes two of its four outlets

Home-grown chain Founder Bak Kut Teh, which had four outlets a year ago, is now left with just two - its Balestier Road flagship store and a branch at Downtown East in Pasir Ris.

It closed its outlet in North Bridge Road opposite Bugis Junction at the end of October. And the one in Hotel Boss in Jalan Sultan was shuttered on Dec 31.

Founder Bak Kut Teh was started in 1978 by Mr Chua Chwee Whatt in a coffee shop in Choa Chu Kang and moved to Balestier Road in 1998.

Second-generation owner Nigel Chua, 45, who had started helping his father since he was young, said business at the two closed outlets was badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added: "The Bugis outlet depended mainly on tourists and the office crowd, both of which were non-existent in October. And 90 per cent of the diners at Hotel Boss were tourists."

He had sent out an appeal on social media on July 15 last year to save the chain, but it was met with a mix of support and criticism. Some netizens rooted for him but others called it a shameless publicity stunt.

In his post, Mr Chua said the brand was in danger of closing in the following two months as business had plummeted by 85 per cent over the past five months.

Business improved slightly after the appeal but quickly plunged again.

Mr Chua said the two remaining outlets are struggling too, with business at only 20 to 30 per cent of what it was during pre-Covid times. He will decide at the end of this week if he will close the Pasir Ris branch. His contract with Downtown East will end in the middle of March.

But he plans to keep the Balestier Road flagship running. "Hopefully, things will pick up after Chinese New Year," he said.

Founder Bak Kut Teh also has overseas franchises in places like Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and China.

While Mr Chua is not involved in their operations, he said that, except for Taiwan, most of them are not doing well.

"Indonesia is affected because of the lockdown. China is not doing well either. And one of the two outlets in Vietnam is closing at the end of this month," he said.