The sharing session by Eighteen Chefs’s Mr. Benny Se Teo was insightful, and I distilled five perspectives. For instance, “If patrons come to Eighteen Chefs because it is a social enterprise, I will not be happy”, Mr. Teo mused. “They should be coming for the food, for the location, for the ambience”.
Read “Benny Se Teo: First A Businessman, Then A Social Entrepreneur“, and here’s a short excerpt:
““To have a million-dollar food and beverage (F&B) enterprise”, Mr. Benny Se Teo shared right from the get-go, “one needs to start with a billion dollars”. Speaking at “In Search of Purpose” – a session organised by the Central Singapore Community Development Council – his point was clear. The F&B industry is hard, and as a social entrepreneur the founder and CEO of restaurant chain Eighteen Chefs has to possess the business nous. Hearing his experiences in person for the first time, I was most struck by Mr. Teo’s pragmatism.
As a social enterprise Eighteen Chefs hires ex-offenders and youths-at-risk, who make up 25 per cent of his headcount.
His story is well-documented. Because of his addiction to heroin he spent 10 years in and out of the prison and the rehabilitation centre, and following his fifth release in 1993 – after rejections from six job interviews, with his criminal record – he “got a job that did not require an interview”. He bought a motorbike and pager to become a dispatch rider, and by 2000 he had his first business in the courier industry. A Chinese restaurant in 2005 was his first F&B venture, but he eventually joined the Apprentice Programme at celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, before opening his first Eighteen Chefs outlet at Eastpoint Mall in 2007.”