This article originally appeared in the latest May edition of Foodie: Jamie's Hong Kong. Read it here!
Joshua and Caleb Ng are the owners of the cool and cosy café Common Ground found on a quiet side street in vibey Sheung Wan. Serving up casual, comfort food with an Asian twist, this neighbourhood hangout is popular with all the cool cats in the city. The twins then went on to open Stack in Sai Ying Pun, a retro pancake house serving up savoury and sweet versions of the fluffy American favourite.
Joshua's passion for food stemmed from childhood and after travelling frequently to Napa Valley he decided to introduce Californian wine to Hong Kong customers, who were still unfamiliar with the product at that time. Thus began his first F&B business, a wine trading company. Joshua and Caleb then extended their work to food and wine pairing and started their first café, Common Ground and then Stack, which quickly turned into the hottest places in their ‘hoods.
Not content to make their own culinary dreams come true, the brothers went on to set up their Twins Kitchen consulting enterprise to help realise the F&B businesses of those with less experience in the sector. “We are not just restaurateurs; we are dream-makers!” Joshua says. Founded in 2011, they began what they like to call their “holistic consulting house”. The brothers like to think of themselves as the McKinsey of F&B, solving problems associated with starting a new restaurant or helping companies add F&B elements into their existing business, as well as dealing with different problems and hiccups they will likely encounter such as licensing, recruitment and choosing a shop location.
Joshua and his team developed a scoring model to assess various locations for a new restaurant taking into account factors such as the revenue of restaurants nearby, neighborhood, pedestrian flow, number of parking lots, and then formulates scores for several possible locations. Joshua says “A prudent choice of your restaurant location can make your restaurant run more than halfway to success. This is particularly true in Hong Kong.” The brothers often come across some roadblocks with clients, “Some people may be obsessed with the interior design. However, life isn’t that easy. We have come across cases in which the client has made a perfect design up to his will but actually the whole kitchen does not fit the license standard and it has to be refurnished again!” With a team of in house interior and graphics designers and F&B operation professionals, the brothers aim to design with consideration of the logistics and operations in mind so the design can help smooth the operation chain and ultimately save money.
The brothers say it usually it takes a quarter for a new restaurant to be launched but in such a high rent area like Hong Kong, a quarter with no business can really burn through funds, so they aim to shorten that period for their clients by considering everything beforehand. They do as much preparation in advance as possible with tools like their research and development studio, where their chefs create the whole menu with costs and benefits calculations down to utensils inventory and storage.
One of their past clients includes Kennedy Town hotspot café Ethos. “We helped Ethos with interior design, recruitment and also the whole menu design. This is a typical example of the holistic consultancy service we offered,” says Joshua. They’ve also consulted on Anything but Salad, Casa Capriz and Wheatfield.
These two passionate cofounders have a set of core principles that dictate their movements, Joshua says “Setting up a new restaurant is not just about offering a decent place or sumptuous food for the customers but an excellent overall client experience.”