Nam Kee Chicken Rice brothers don’t care about tattoo comments, insist good service is more important

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Owners of Nam Khee Chicken Rice Restaurant Issue Comments Questioning Appearance

What do working in the financial industry have in common with running a chicken rice restaurant with over 50 years of history?

Well, for the Chu brothers, both require persistence, innovation and consistent effort.

Lincoln, Dave and Ken, third-generation owners of the rustic Nam Kee Chicken Rice restaurant on Upper Thomson Road, left their high-paying banking jobs to take over the family business when their father wanted to sell the restaurant.

Left to right: Dave Chu, Lincoln Chu (foreground), Ken Chu

Since then, the brothers and sisters have been working hard to transform Namky into a brand for the 21st century, attracting a lot of attention.

MSNews We sat down with the trio to learn more about that, their unique stories, and how they manage the online attention their physical appearance draws.

Owner of Nam Khee Chicken Rice Restaurant Quits Bank Job to Continue Family Business

Today, his 34-year-old eldest brother, Lincoln, oversees the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. Delegate tasks to each employee to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Dave, at 32, is the second oldest and runs the restaurant’s standard operating procedures every day. He also checks inventory and replenishes materials as needed.

The youngest, 28-year-old Ken, is Nam Kee’s brains. He not only analyzes his data to create a big picture for the business, but he also works with Dave on areas for improvement.

Before taking over Nam Kee, the brothers worked in the same sales department at a local bank. Their portfolio is one of the best portfolios in the sector and has also won awards.

So why did the three of them give up more than enough salaries to run the 55-year-old chicken rice shop that their grandfather started in 1968?

“We feel money isn’t everything,” Ken replied. “What we were really looking for was a sense of ownership, that belonged to us, not just the money we were able to make.”

Chu’s youngest brother insisted they weren’t trying to show off their wealth, saying they only viewed money differently after working in the financial industry.

Obligation to keep the family business alive after the father retires

Dave and Lincoln said they felt it was their responsibility to take over the family business after their father, second-generation owner Chu Ti Heng, announced his intention to retire.

The eldest said Chu had originally planned to sell the business. The brothers couldn’t stand the idea of ​​what was essentially their home in the hands of an outsider, so they stood up for themselves and blocked the takeover.

Taking over the family business meant that all three had to quit their corporate jobs and focus all their time and energy on the shop.

Regarding the misconception that stores only need one of them to stay open, Ken said this is only possible with the previous business model.

As they modernize their brand and take it in new directions, there is a lot that needs to be completed.

“That requires all three of us working together to improve and streamline specific areas of our business,” he elaborated.

“We’re very committed to making this happen, and if we want to do it, we want to do it right.”

About three years have passed since Nam Kee passed into the hands of the third generation, and even now, my father still visits the store almost every morning to check the operation status.

“I think he is ready to let go, and in fact he has already. “I’m worried,” Ken said.

Growing media attention raised questions from skeptics

But one area where Chu-senpai trusts his sons is marketing the store.

According to CNA Lifestyle, Nam Kee declined most interviews in the past under the reign of the founder and second-generation owner. Today, the brothers happily welcome media coverage of the restaurant.

Of course, the new media attention has brought scrutiny from detractors and skeptics.

Photos of the Chu brothers have flooded publications and social media, making it hard for some to miss them.

To portray their brothers’ image, they all have tattoos and usually wear Nam Kee t-shirts and shorts, lazing around in restaurants all day long.

In other words, it is impossible to expect to dress and behave in the same way as in previous white-collar jobs.

However, criticism of the new owners seems to focus more on their looks than how they run their business. Some compared the brothers to usurers and mobs.

For example, one comment on a local Chinese daily’s coverage of the restaurant mocked that if you go there to eat, you’re “always going to get beaten up.”

Owner of Nam Kee Chicken Rice focuses on quality of food and service over looks

In response to such remarks, Mr. Ken said that people can say whatever they want, but those who know a person know their true character.

“If they can’t ignore our looks, we can’t stop them. Unfortunately, this is very common in Singapore,” he sighed.

Lincoln shrugged.

I think they can say what they want, but I don’t owe them a living. After all, I don’t rob or steal, I just do what I do as long as I don’t do anything illegal.

When it comes to how potential customers will perceive a restaurant, we are less concerned about appearance than the quality of food and service.

“We strongly believe that the emotions people feel when they walk into our restaurants are of the utmost importance and that is how we acquire and retain new customers,” Ken said. .

Strong-looking but polite and methodical

Spend enough time with the brothers and you’ll realize that, as clichéd as it may sound, you can’t really judge a book by its cover.

His older brother Dave has a lot of tattoos, but Ken points out that he’s probably the most polite and methodical of them all.

“When he sees an older customer, he automatically rushes out of the store and helps him up the stairs,” he said.

The trio believe that as long as you serve your customers wholeheartedly, it doesn’t matter what they say on the outside. Ken adds that the smiles of satisfied patrons as they walk out make everything worthwhile.

Dave echoed, saying that these naysayers probably never visited the store. “Those with experience will know that we are actually very service-minded and friendly.”

“Even if people yell at us, we won’t retaliate,” Lincoln nodded.

Beyond their looks, some questioned whether the brothers actually worked at the bank.

In particular, there was a comment that he looked like a bank security guard, and Ken jokingly agreed.

“Frankly, I think we’re pretty good[for security guard jobs],” he laughed. We have tattoos and we look ferocious. I don’t blame him for this impression. “

The three also admitted that such remarks were more entertaining than discouraging. “Some of it is actually pretty funny, so I laugh it off instead of getting angry.”

Trio invites those questioning their banker pasts to reveal over chicken rice

Meanwhile, a few hinted that the brothers may have been involved in illegal activities.

Lincoln, Dave, and Ken are legally unable to publicly disclose which bank they worked for, so it’s hard to tell if they’re telling the truth, or worse, deliberately revealing something to the public. It raises the question of whether it is hidden.

In that regard, Ken has a solution for those questioning their credibility. That is, come to the store and speak personally.

“We’ll treat you to chicken rice with a drink. We can show you award-winning photos and share what you used to do. That’s what we can do,” he quipped. , reiterated being serious about the offer.

He also said that he would like to keep your comments coming as a way to learn how Nam Kee is doing and how he can improve.

Helping Nam Kee Chicken Rice Brothers Soft Skills Gained in Finance Jobs Before Running a Restaurant

To that end, the Chu brothers are professed to be very good at turning negatives into positives. They attribute this valuable skill to their days in the financial industry.

While the technical skills I acquired in banking didn’t translate directly into the food business, the soft skills and mental resilience I acquired during that time have helped me to continue working at Nam Kee.

“When we worked in banking, it required perseverance, perseverance and a never-give-up attitude. When we took over this business, we inherited those mindsets and values. ,” Ken elaborated.

Dave also agreed with this, stating: It is also about how we solve problems and handle situations with the right attitude. “

According to the Chus, the biggest change between working in a bank and working in a restaurant is the extended working hours and the lack of a social life.

Mr. Lincoln said the bank’s normal working hours are 9 to 5, but Nam Khee’s management requires him to be at the bank for more than 12 hours each day. As if that wasn’t enough, the friars meet daily at home after work.

The second son elaborated on that point, saying that the long working hours meant fewer casual gatherings.

“We finish work around 9 or 10 pm. Where else can we go after that? I no longer go out after work.”

Accept serious responsibilities as an owner and employer

In a broader sense, the biggest challenge for the Chu brothers as they took over the reins was supporting all the staff who depended on them.

“As soon as I walked into the shop, I realized that I was a role model. But it will affect employees,” Ken said.

“Here we quickly realized that we had a great responsibility on our shoulders. We had a family to feed and a legacy to protect.”

Therefore, the trio must first focus on getting everything right at the Upper Thomson store before considering bigger plans for the Nam Kee brand, including franchising and expansion.

“I think we still have a lot to improve, both as a person and as a business, so I want to focus on those first,” Chu’s youngest brother said.

It’s great to see three high-profile personalities who are willing to give up their comfort zone to take their family business to greater heights, while at the same time all joining forces.

We hope that all those who criticize them will one day walk into the store for some delicious chicken rice, and the brothers will truly shatter all negative assumptions.

Do you know of any other notable restaurants like Nam Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant? Email us at

Featured image by MS News. Photographed by Iskandar Rosari.

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