Newbies, regulars flock to First Street Teochew Fish Soup's new outlet
Founder of First Street Teochew Fish Soup was initially reluctant to expand business, but decided to take the plunge after persuasion from his two sons
Mr William Lim, founder of the famous First Street Teochew Fish Soup, describes himself as a "very old-fashioned man" who did not really have any thoughts of expanding his business.
It began in 1988 as a humble hawker stall along Upper Serangoon Road selling authentic Teochew-style fish soup.
His two sons Desmond, 39, and Aaron, 35, joined him as full-time hawkers nearly a decade ago.
But last November, after 32 years, Mr Lim finally decided to take the plunge and partner with F&B operator BreadTalk Group to open the stall's second outlet at Food Republic in BreadTalk IHQ mall in Tai Seng Street.
The daily queues, a perpetual sight at the original stall even before it opens, have formed at the new one too.
Even during the circuit breaker period, the lines did not cease, with customers ordering as many as 85 takeaway packets in one go.
Mr Lim, 64, told The New Paper: "I always believed in selling my fish soup at one stall only. If you like it, you will come, and if you don't, then you won't.
"Regulars keep asking us to open another stall. I was initially reluctant, but after my sons spoke to BreadTalk, they convinced me we should expand our brand.
"If not for BreadTalk, we probably wouldn't have done so, as we don't have the experience to do it on our own."
The Lims are believed to have received a seven-figure sum from BreadTalk after inking the lucrative deal, but both parties declined to elaborate on the payout.
The trio currently rotate shifts between stalls, and took the lead in operations and design of the new stall to ensure it is as similar as possible to the flagship, with the same menu items, taste and prices - a bowl of batang (mackerel) fish soup from $6, garoupa from $9 and pomfret from $11.
Ms Christal Yim, senior regional manager of BreadTalk Group, said of the partnership: "We have an understanding that the type and size of fish is important to the cooking process, and nothing is more important than Mr Lim's goal to ensure the brand has a consistent taste, with same or even better quality fish, (using) BreadTalk's procurement expertise.
"We also assist in the hiring process of the staff, as the preparation of the fish requires skill and precision, which involves three to six months' training."
According to Mr Lim, plenty of fresh faces make up his new customer base at BreadTalk IHQ, including office workers who prefer a healthier option.
He also spoke fondly of his regulars, saying: "On the opening day, so many came by. Some of them prefer (the new) stall because it is more convenient for parking."
He added jokingly: "Some younger customers also like to ask my sons to cook instead of me. I think their good looks brought in business."
Although his brand is enjoying success and in safe hands, Mr Lim loves his job too much to stop anytime soon.
He said: "I will retire in two to three years - although that's what I always say every year. "I can't help it, I like to work. When I go on a holiday, my body aches from not working."
On the possibility of opening even more branches, he said: "The most important thing is our customers - if they try it once and it isn't the same taste, they won't come back.
"So we will not open more stalls until we are sure we can maintain the quality."