13 August, 2019

f&b | food | foodtech | innovation | sustainable

Spearheading the Healthy Food Revolution in Asia: Interview with YOLO Co-Founder Alex Bauduin

Very few founders share the tenacity that Alex Bauduin exudes: his rapid success in the unforgiving local F&B industry largely due to his laser-focused drive. With the wheels already in motion of setting up his 4th branch (in less than 4 years) of the highly successful health-inspired eatery YOLO, we sat down with the co-founder for this month’s SPECTRUM member interview to find out a bit more about the history of the business and the lessons he has learnt on the road to success:

 

[SPECTRUM]:

Can you tell us more about YOLO and why you decided to start this venture? 

[Alex]:

The idea for the business came while I was still working in the alcohol industry overseas. I began to research on what I should and should not eat, very quickly realising that there was this huge gap in the Asian market when it came to proper nutritional offerings that went beyond healthy grains, salads and fancy organic cafes. You could say that YOLO was born out of this very real need for me to find an alternative that really didn’t exist in the region at the time.

 

[SPECTRUM]:

You didn’t have experience in F&B prior to starting YOLO, what were the main challenges you faced?

[Alex]:

I was very much part of the corporate world at the beginning and this was my first foray into the industry. At the start, I relied heavily on consultants that had a good track record in the industry and who helped me in terms of my branding and go-to-market strategy.

You could say that I had to learn on the go. There are bound to have issues with hiring, inventory, quality control etc. What I found to be the main key to succeeding was to get out there into the outlet to get some hands-on experience as well as use some common sense to solve everyday problems.

 

[SPECTRUM]:

What do you think of the F&B scene in Singapore in particular and what do you think are the key opportunities for entrepreneurs like yourself who want to succeed in a competitive market?

[Alex]:

The F&B market is an extremely challenging one, especially in Singapore where you experience fierce competition. Aside from the high rents adding to startup costs, the fickle nature of the industry’s consumer base makes it very hard to stay relevant for too long.

I would say that the best advice I could give would be to make sure that you establish a solid concept that resonates with customers and is applicable. Also, always remember that like any business, it’s a numbers game – make sure you select the real estate property. This could make or break your business.

 

[SPECTRUM]:

What other markets are you looking at for expansion and why?

[Alex]:

The “Why” aspect is easy to answer – the goal was always to expand and become an international brand– YOLO was never going to be a one-outlet establishment.

We have already set our sights on Indonesia and the Philippines as potential markets, possibly adopting a franchise model. Hong Kong and Thailand may work as well but it all depends on the quality of the partners that we find. We are still exploring these opportunities.

 

[SPECTRUM]:

We heard that YOLO has just undergone a major revamp in terms of branding, can you tell us more?

[Alex]:

The pivot was necessary – as it is for any startup.

We had come a long way in four years. When we started we were making a wide variety of dishes that included salads, burgers and other Western dishes. Over time we found our niche: making Asian staples made healthy. In line with this, we decided to re-adjust our branding and messaging to speak to our customers better. We went through a whole revamp in our packaging, design and messaging and I am super happy about the results.

 

[SPECTRUM]:

Your team was located in another co-working space prior to moving to SPECTRUM. Why did you decide to join SPECTRUM?

[Alex]:

We found rapidly that the other space lacked the social element. Every co-working space talks about community but many don’t deliver on this and few members actually speak to each other. Lack of interaction can cause staff to be less inspired at work and I realised that SPECTRUM’s community was one that provided inclusion as well as a sense of belonging that made my staff happier to come to work. As our team grows, this is becoming more and more important. We used to be in an even bigger co-working space but I noticed that my staff members were having lunch by themselves or only within the team. At SPECTRUM they seem happier, have more friends within the community and a bigger social circle.

 

[SPECTRUM]:

What do you think of foodtech innovations such as cultured meat or alternatives such as Impossible burgers? Is it something you will consider for your menus?

[Alex]:

I think that it is something that gained a lot of popularity over the last few years. The main issue right now is the price point. It may not be part of YOLO’s value proposition at this time due to the cost of creating such dishes – we are big on value and do not want to serve offerings above our price range. We also have our own vegetarian and vegan dishes to cater to those with special dietary needs.  It’s something we could explore in the future though, once the prices for such options are reduced to a level we are comfortable with.

 

[SPECTRUM]:

What other major changes do you expect in the F&B industry in the near future?

[Alex]:

We will see more of the ‘cloud kitchen’ trend attract industry players. Central kitchens that omit the shop front and delivery apps that send food straight to homes will rise in numbers. We will also see more ‘food aggregators’ with some big players offering a wide variety of different cuisines for increasingly fast and cheap delivery. That being said, eating is also an experiential activity and bricks and mortar restaurants will still thrive.

 

And there we have it, this month’s interview packed with insights from the ever-approachable Alex Bauduin. You can find out a bit more about YOLO here. As always, keep up-to-date with what is going on around SPECTRUM here.

 

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f&b | food | foodtech | innovation | sustainable

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