Outlets offer brand exposure for Churros Factory

Mr Chiang and Ms Png at one of their pop-up eateries, Paella Place, in Somerset. A pop-up store costs them less than $20,000.
Mr Chiang and Ms Png at one of their pop-up eateries, Paella Place, in Somerset. A pop-up store costs them less than $20,000. ST PHOTO: TAMARA CRAIU

Paella Place, a restaurant at Triple One Somerset, boasts of chairs, tables and counters made of wooden pallets, which can be set up or removed within a day.

The eatery, opened by home-grown food and beverage company Churros Factory, does not have credit card terminals - it accepts only cash - and uses recycled beer crates as decoration.

If the set-up seems makeshift, that's because it is.

Five of Churros Factory's six outlets, including Paella Place, are pop-ups with leases of between three and six months.

Even then, the shops may not be opened for that long. The leases may be terminated early if the landlord finds a long-term replacement tenant, according to the contracts.

The uncertain nature of such leases, however, does not faze Churros Factory's owners, former S-League player Jeremy Chiang, 31, and his wife Png Suyi, 30. "The aim of the pop-ups is to expose our brand and let people try our churros," said Mr Chiang, who also runs a renovation business which supplies the portable wooden furniture at his outlets. "Ultimately we want to be a supplier of churros, and just keep one or two main outlets."

Such an arrangement also means the couple do not have to incur high start-up costs - a pop-up store costs them less than $20,000. A payment card terminal and the associated fees would cost them a few hundred dollars, so they decided not to have them at their stores, added Ms Png.

The couple were introduced to the pop-up concept by shopping mall I12 Katong, where they opened their first Churros Factory cafe in December 2014. The three-month lease was later extended by a year when the business thrived.

It also runs pop-up cafes at Junction 10 and Orchard Central, and kiosks at City Square Mall and Westgate - the only "long-term" shop with a lease of "two plus two" years.

The physical stores complement their online one, as those who order churros online can save on delivery fees and collect orders at the stores.

However, there is a downside. Last month, the couple closed their West Coast Plaza outlet after 11 months of operations.

"We had a few calls from customers asking where we disappeared to," said Mr Chiang. "We just diverted them to the nearest shop, which was at Westgate. But our regulars know where to find us."

Melissa Lin

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline Outlets offer brand exposure for Churros Factory. Subscribe