Growth through Perfecting Your Craft
Words by Hoe Ziqian

The story of Better Craft Co. began with Lola’s Café in 2013. It has endeared itself to the
community and is firmly established as an institution for reliable, gratifying food and perfectly brewed specialty coffee.

Since its establishment in 2013, Lola’s Cafe has grown into a community favourite, trusted by everyone for its food and coffee. (Image courtesy of Better Craft)

The Better Craft team prides itself as a game-changer in the local food and beverage scene. And in order to sustain this vision, the team understands that it has to constantly reinvent itself through dedication and passion, while remaining grounded and committed to its community and people.

More recently, Better Craft launched their second brand – Dumpling Darlings, which offers an innovative (and delicious) spin on everybody’s favourite comfort food: Dumplings and Noodles. The first outlet in Amoy Street was a hit with the CBD lunch crowd. Encouraged by the popularity of its flagship, founders June Tan and Foo Choo Kiat decided to open its second outlet along Circular Road. This latest space opened its doors in August 2020 after months of navigating the COVID lockdown in Singapore.

Better Craft is always on the lookout for the next big thing and is committed to building and creating unforgettable food concepts in Singapore. But this also means that the stakes are getting higher, and the company has to count on the growth of its people to take on bigger challenges.

With people development being the central focus of its strategy, it is no surprise that the Better Craft team partnered with NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to explore innovative ways to hire and maximise the potential of its employees.

According to HR Manager Rochelle Ang, the company’s partnership with e2i first began when she wrote in to enquire about a grant back in 2019. She was subsequently invited to the e2i office, where a dedicated team of specialists took time to understand her situation and crafted a more holistic solution to suit her hiring needs.

Most companies have reservations about hiring employees from different industries as they are concerned about the time and effort that needs to be invested to nurture and train an inexperienced hire. The salary support from e2i is a crucial element as it helps to bridge this gap by easing the financial burden of taking on such a risk. This has helped to open more doors to individuals with high potential who might otherwise have been turned away. 

Mohammad Fadhli is one of the beneficiaries of Better Craft’s collaboration with e2i as he was able to make the transition from a line cook to an outlet supervisor. (Image courtesy of Better Craft)

One beneficiary of e2i’s collaboration with Better Craft is Mohammad Fadhli. He was previously working as a cook in a hotel. It was his first job after graduating from Nanyang Polytechnic with a Diploma in F&B Business. With his major in culinary studies, Fadhli had no problem landing a job in the kitchen, but he soon realised that the work experience was not what he had envisioned.

Spurred on by a desire to better himself, he decided to apply for a managerial role in Better Craft. At the back of his mind, he knew it was something that he would truly enjoy as he had previously held part-time jobs as a service crew member and enjoyed the experience and camaraderie.

When asked about what matters most to him at work, Fadhli’s response was simple – the people. He shared, “I’m someone who needs to enjoy my work. Being with people who are easy to get along with and having a group of supportive colleagues whom I can work well with matters. On top of that, work life balance is an important consideration as well, as I value the time spent with my family and friends.”

Mohammad Fadhli is one of the beneficiaries of Better Craft’s collaboration with e2i as he was able to make the transition from a line cook to an outlet supervisor. (Image courtesy of Better Craft)
As part of his training, Fadhli was put through the paces on the responsibilities of being a floor manager and he looks back fondly on the experience as it was both challenging and fulfilling. (Image courtesy of Better Craft)

It was not easy for Fadhli to make the step up to an outlet supervisor. He recalls the most memorable part of his on-boarding was the floor manager training. There was a huge amount of information to absorb at the start, as he sought to understand the role and get a firm grasp of the responsibilities of a floor manager. He soon found his bearings and is now very comfortable with managing a shift on his own.

Reflecting on his initial struggles, Fadhli was happy that he walked away a better person from the whole experience. “My job on the service line requires me to work alongside many others with diverse personalities. Being more of an introvert, I struggled at the beginning, but I find it interesting that I can now open up to them more readily. I have also discovered alot about leadership and what it takes to be a leader.”

Fadhli cites his direct superior as a key influence in his initial phase in Better Craft. Playing the role of a mentor, she paid a lot of attention to Fadhli’s progress at work and provided him with constant feedback on how he can improve. Despite pushing him out of his comfort zone, she was also able to help Fadhli identify his strengths.

“It was exciting yet stressful, but I remember it to be fulfilling. I did not expect myself to be able to handle so many responsibilities, but I was glad to be able to prove myself in the end.”

Fadhli’s journey is surely the first of many, but the most important thing is that a strong foundation has been laid for Better Craft with the firm support of e2i. Competition in the F&B space will only grow tougher, but for Better Craft, it is good to know that their employees are poised to meet those challenges head-on and with confidence.

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