Jumbo Group is one of Singapore’s leading multi-dining concept food and beverage (F&B) establishments.

In this Leadership Conversations series with Mr Ang Kiam Meng, executive director and group CEO, we get insights into the company’s success story and understand how digital transformation will propel Jumbo Group’s future growth and diversification plans.

Q: Please tell us more about Jumbo Group.

A: Our company began with the inception of Jumbo Seafood Restaurant in 1987, best known for our award-winning chilli crab and black pepper crab dishes. From this single restaurant in the city state’s East Coast, the group now operates a portfolio of eight F&B brands, with 36 outlets in 12 cities across Asia, including Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, Fuzhou, Taipei, Taoyuan, Seoul, Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, Tokyo and Osaka, employing a total of over 700 service and management staff.

As a part of our expansion plan, we acquired a local well-known wonton noodle brand – Kok Kee Wonton Noodle. We also rebranded our retail packs (cooking pastes and spices) under a new lifestyle brand – Love, Afare, which was launched in June 2021, with an expanded range of products spanning into tea and merchandise. Recently, we launched a new concept, Hack It – a virtual dining concept delivering high-quality, affordable seafood to our customers. Jumbo Group’s philosophy is bonding people through food. Quality of food, ambience and services all form part of the customer experience, and we aim to excel in all of these.

Technology has been at the core of an organisation’s ability to become more agile and resilient. How is Jumbo Group transforming itself to become more future-ready?

The ongoing pandemic has changed consumer consumption patterns and has accelerated our digital transformation initiatives. The key objectives for us are to drive operational efficiency via streamlining of processes, improving planning and reducing wastage, and generating more insights into the effectiveness of resource deployment and profitability analysis.

By leveraging technology, we aim to capture data from our end-to-end business processes, which in the future will provide us with valuable insights into consumer behaviour and preferences. Such insights will help us become more customer-centric and further improve our products and services. We also want to use technology to upskill our employees. We want them to be skilled in using data to make everyday decisions.

It is also a process for us to institutionalise knowledge and experience via embedding processes and data into the system to ensure the sustainability of our operations and business.

Jumbo Group recently chose SAP as its trusted technology partner to address some of the key challenges. Could you explain what led to this decision? What were some of the benefits?

As market dynamics and consumer behaviours rapidly change, it is vital for Jumbo Group to gain better operational visibility. While our growth ambitions remain strong, the pivotal focus and value driver for us was adapting to the new normal and serving our customers in Singapore and across the region. With the long-drawn pandemic situation, we came to realise some important points:

  1. Bottom line is not only dependent on the top line, but efficiency and cost control can make a significant difference.
  2. As ironical as it may sound, the best time to invest is when the market is muted as everyone has a little more bandwidth to strategise and execute. We want to be poised for growth when the economy recovers.
  3. Paper and manual processes are no doubt efficient when a company is small. Systems, processes and data are essential when a company grows – they lead us to see blind spots which we are not privy to when things
    are all rosy and booming.

We wanted to beef up our infrastructure and reap the returns from the investment quickly. Choosing a tested and proven system aids in reducing implementation risk.

SAP S/4HANA, S/4HANA Retail and SAP Customer Activity Repository solutions are best-in-class industry solutions. The vast depository of knowledge and best practices embedded in the system not only helps us with our digital transformation and also aligns us with the industry standards. The solution is also flexible enough for us to retain and incorporate some of our unique practices to cater to our specific needs in terms of work-flow and data. As with all systems, timely implementation is critical to the success of the project. SAP has deep industry expertise and a strong ecosystem of qualified partners, who are well- versed with the industry requirements such as Synnove Systems.

Now that we have implemented the system, we can see how workflows across departments sync up across the entire process. We hope that the data collected will help us zoom in to areas in which we can bring about better efficiencies and further improve our customer focus.

Many companies are undergoing digital transformation to prepare themselves for a post-pandemic era. What would be your advice to them?

Like many other industries, the F&B sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, and companies today have to digitally transform themselves to thrive in the new normal. Having said that, it is a journey and every organisation will have a different approach to it.

Whatever one’s pace of this journey, a crucial first step is to have a trusted digital transformation partner who understands the industry and has the right technology and support resources to help you achieve your business outcomes. The mindset, as well as innovation during this crucial period, can help us become future-ready. Despite the challenges, Jumbo was able to swiftly adapt to the new normal, and through a strong digital core, we have the confidence to expand business operations and reach more customers regionally.

This article was first published on The Business Times on 6 October.