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14 Aug 2020

Down to Bones’ Secret for Growing the Business

Located in Taman Overseas Union, Down to Bones is a famous sanctuary for meat lovers that is well on its way to becoming a neighborhood landmark. Well known for its addictively tender and juicy ribs, this meat haven has grown from just a hawker stall to a 2 outlets shop; one in OUG and the other one located in Sanctuary Mall. 

Down to Bones Hawker stall Taman OUG

Image Source: Down To Bones Facebook 

Down to Bones began with a humble pork rib stall that eventually evolved to a Malaysian-inspired BBQ place that has made locals queue for hours just to get their hands on its mouth-watering meat line-ups.

Down To Bones OUG Branch

Image Source: Down To Bones Facebook 

From the outside, this restaurant may seem just like another quintessential hipster joint, but we implore you to try out their pork ribs or anything else on the menu and you will definitely not look at the place the same again. 

Every Good Idea Starts With Finding a Solution to a Problem

One of the co-founders, Jun Kit, shared that it is still surreal to him how 4 years have passed by in a blink of an eye. When they started the business, none of them had any prior experience in the F&B field, what they all had in common was their love for food and equipped with that, they embarked on a journey, juggling between their full-time day jobs and their new part-time endeavor. It wasn’t easy and they worked 365 days nonstop to ensure the smooth running of the business. 

He pointed out that their collective experiences and skills from different industries were what made it possible. As someone with an IT background himself, his mindset always revolves around finding solutions, fixing gaps, and problem-solving. Having that mindset together with a strong passion for food, important discoveries are bound to happen, and that’s how Down to Bones was conceptualized. 

Jun Kit shared that as food lovers, he and his partners all noticed one underrated problem; it was the lack of affordable meat such as ribs available in the market. Ribs have always been known as a luxury; we mostly see it in fancy restaurants and higher-end dining places but not in regular dining places where you would usually go daily with your friends and family. 

Jun Kit and his partners want more people to enjoy high-quality pork ribs on a more regular basis. After going through several trials, calculations and planning, they managed to narrow down the recipes and offer it at a reasonable price.

From there, they further refine and develop it into what it is today; a haven for people looking to satisfy their meat cravings. 

Taking a Leap of Faith Is Not Always A Risk  

When asked what made him completely shift his focus to the business, he mentioned that his journey has always been a series of trials and errors that had taught him valuable lessons in life. Before he delved into F&B, he had also tried out other fields that weren’t as promising for him. 

Just right before they decided to open their first store outlet in 2017, Jun Kit and his partners made the big decision to leave their day job. Even though they knew well that losing their main source of income was a major risk that could also impact the business, they knew they needed the focus and time to grow the business.

Though it was the passion for food that motivated him to explore the field, it was the positive responses that they have been getting and knowing that it had a lot of potential to grow that made them entirely focus on the business. 

Now they are well-recovering in the post-MCO environment and are seeing their regular customers return to enjoy their infamous ribs that are just as good as ever. 

Why People Can’t Get Enough of It 

On sharing what makes Down to Bones different from other restaurants, Jun Kit mentioned it all comes down to their effort in continuously finding new ways to innovate and experiment with recipes to make it perfect to taste. 

Their signature ribs that were perfected through countless trials and experiments. What made them famous back then was that Down to Bones was the first small hawker stall in Malaysia that served massive portioned ribs at such an amazing price. Their ribs which are known for its giant tender juicy goodness has made the locals swarm the place with the hope to get a taste.

Down to Bones Ribs in OUG Kuala Lumpur

Image Source: Down To Bones Facebook 

Apart from that, another example of this is their rice bowl dishes. He realized that comfort food has always been the best food to turn to on any occasion. He believes that serving comfort food like rice can never go wrong. It appeals to people from all demographics, and there’s never short of hungry food hunters that would choose it over other extravagant cuisines. 

He wanted to create rice-based dishes for the menu but didn’t want to serve the things that people can commonly find elsewhere, and that is why they chose to create something similar to pork lard rice; an almost-forgotten food that was famous back in its hay days as the ultimate comfort food as it is simple, delicious, and filling.  

With that as their base, they experimented with countless combinations and ingredients to give it a new identity and get to that perfect recipe. That’s how their Mango Fried Pork and Creamy Pork Curry rice bowls were made. It became a popular menu for the lunch crowd and is always a reliable go-to menu for those seeking comfort food. 

Down to Bones Rice bowls the best lunch menu in Kuala Lumpur

Image Source: Down To Bones Facebook 

He also mentioned that some of their menus were conceptualized with a particular value, memory, and purpose.  As an example, their Sambal Bakwa which was created for independence day comprises pork jerky, Papadom, and Sambal; A perfect representation of the different races living harmoniously as one in Malaysia. 

“They are a harmonious combination that cannot exist without each other.”

Aside from that, they emphasize on including underrated local delicacies in their servings such as Papadoms, Sambal, and many more to appeal to the local taste buds.

How They are Going Digital

When asked about their experience with Fave, he pointed out that their journey with Fave started with Fave Deals. Overall, deals contributed to 40% of their monthly sales before the MCO and they enjoyed positive outcomes in their two years with Fave.

Down to Bones Ribs Deals

Image Source: Down to Bones Deal on Fave

During the MCO (Movement Control Order) he noticed that more and more people started to shift to using eWallets. As a business owner, he understood this demand and agreed that it was a safer and more convenient payment method.

Down to Bones FavePay

Image Source: Down to Bones on Fave

In their efforts to go digital, Jun Kit pointed out that they see FavePay not just as a payment method but also as a customer loyalty program on its own. Through FavePay Cashback, they have seen customers returning to utilize their earned Cashback. 

He further explained that the beauty behind FavePay Cashback is that customers still come back even months later to utilize their Cashback. This is because the system does not constrain them with a limited time redeem period and this in a way offers customers the flexibility that they want.

He also likes the fact that it goes by value as it encourages customers to spend more in return to earn more Cashback and save for their next purchase. 

Apart from that he relies on FaveBiz to come up with suitable products and even marketing campaigns to appeal to different segments of  customers. 

Their Secret to Running the Business

Jun Kit exclusively shared that back when they were still operating as a hawker stall, all of them wore many different hats. 

Kuala Lumpur ribs places

They got down to work and did most of it themselves. They were the dishwasher, cleaner, butcher, driver, cashier, cook, waiters, accountant, social media handler, and etc. 

He said, looking back at the journey, on one side it seemed like an endless and tiring daily challenge, but on the other side, these challenges enabled them to grow stronger, way stronger than any books could teach them. 

It is also through these challenges which entail them to be involved that have enabled them to transition to fully independent leaders and form a team with a great dynamic as they walk the journey together. 

The most important lesson they learned from their journey is - 

“Get our hands dirty and continue learning daily.”

Coming from a non-F&B background meant that the only source of reference for them was online tutorials and these tutorials don't really teach shortcuts. They have been criticized by a handful of people that they were wasting money and resources for not using ready-made products.

Their mashed potatoes, for example, are still made from scratch. They hand peel, boil, and hand mash it daily - they insist on keeping their way to ensure the quality of the food they serve from the preparation stage to the consumption. 

Down to Bones Kitchen

This progressive learning process has made them realize that their non-F&B background has enabled them to be unique, to create food like their Sambal Bak Kwa spaghetti that is way different from the others.

From a more human perspective, their mottos are:

  1. Be honest to your colleagues and team 
  2. Be open to honesty from your colleagues and team
  3. To be treated like an adult, you need to be an adult 
  4. Changes are dynamic, SOP is static. (open to changes anytime as learning is progressive and should be done together)

In conclusion, it's just amazing how much their guiding principle of "getting our hands dirty" has enabled them to grow beyond their expectations. It proves that dedication paired with the right mentality serves as the perfect motivation to grow.

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