‘Why After You’s success cannot be imitated?’ Let’s reveal millionaire secret recipes and international reputation with May, the owner of After You
- After You Dessert Café was found by two cousins, May- Ms. Gulapat Kanokwatanawan and Mr. Maetup T. Suwan.
- There are 15 branches of After You opening in Bangkok Metropolitan Region.
- There was the overheard news saying that stock exchange has been involved since 2015 and it is during the ongoing process.
- Signature menu’s prominent point are loads of ingredients, full of flavour and good feeling for every bite. Every menu actually came from May’s fondness.
- R&D team will come up with new menu monthly according to statistic data.
- Since there are always customers waiting in line, line system management and staff training have become tough problems. Staff will always be trained to serve like they are being served.
If you happen to choose dessert café you like the most, we believe that After You will be absolutely many people’s top choice. After You just launched 3 new menus; Shibuya Toast, Kakigōri and Milk tea with grass jelly to especially please Thai tea lovers.
9 years ago, After You started the trend attracting crowd to line up waiting for hours just to taste Shibuya Honey Toast which have become popular menu for almost every café. Since then, Gulapat Kanokwatanawan or May, After You became well-known as successful young entrepreneur and one of eye-catching dessert café trendsetters.
From a small café in Thonglor area to 15 branches in Bangkok Metropolitan Region with consistent visit from customers, May and her cousin, Maetup T. Suwan, board of After You Co.,Ltd., have proved for 9 years that there are still number of customers lining up in front of every After You’s branch in spite of many new cafés opening (also the shutdown of many cafes).
While Kakigōri’, the new menu has become overwhelmingly popular, she decided to open 2 new branches of Japanese shaved ice cafés under the name Maygōri at The Commons, Thonglor and at Sian Square One. Many think that she is good at capturing people’s affection. She can clearly make a trend out of it. However, the owner herself believe that she has just brought what has not been existed yet to the market. The news of stock market involvement has even more urged us wanting to know what After You’s next plan is and how come this café has never disappeared from the trend.
The reveal of signature menu’s secret recipe: for ones who do not want something soft.
May’s business route has similar start to people who fancy dessert and dream of self-business. After many dessert tryouts, many flavour inspections and constant recipe development; her dream finally came to shape as small Japanese style café under “Dessert Café” which serves fresh-made dessert dish by dish. First branch was at J Avenue, Thonglor. Shibuya Honey Toast was overwhelmingly welcomed as it was “Unheard” at that time attracting crowd to line up in front daily. Besides, it made the difference to what original cake and bakery shops had.
Last year, After You launched new menu “Kakigōri” which quickly drew as many attentions as the champion like Honey Toast did. That is why we wonder what secret she has to come up with such impressive menu.
“No, lots of menu didn’t work out. It took me 9 years to come up with idea that is similar to Honey Toast. We tried to think of new ones all along the way. If we didn’t like either of it, we wouldn’t put it on sale. However, if it was the right one, we would like to offer. R&D team has helped with the ideas lately. Then, it will be us to make the last decision. Supposed, it was tasted by 10 people, 7 out of 10 said it was good. Then, we would love to put it on sale”.
“For us, dessert is not food to full your stomach. It however, must be grand finale once you take a bite. That is why we have to put loads of ingredients. I think the customers can feel its quality. It covers the little details like amount of butter, bake temperature or how fast the serves must be to maintain the heat on toast and the cold on ice cream. It might be easy to copy the taste but there are also many details that can’t be imitated.
“After You customers don’t need something healthy. Their visits might have been because of sadness or traffic jam. They don’t want something soft despite the consideration on amount. They keen on something to please themselves”.
“It might be easy to copy the taste but there are also many details that can’t be imitated”
The savour from statistic data analysis
It is not easy to make every dish satisfying. Even though there is a signature menu that is always requested, May still insist that she wants regular customers to taste something new. That is why new menu is launched every month. However, statistic data must be studied monthly in order to think of each new dish since there is a variety of customers; children, teenagers, adults as well as foreigners.
“In the beginning, all After You’s menus were from my own favorites. As the business goes bigger, the excessive complication may cause people’s confusion. I will arrange monthly meeting with team considering each month’s data to see which menu is popular, which style people prefer to make a decision on new menus. Or even when it comes to circulation planning or new idea discussion, everybody will seriously participate. Then, we look back to the cost possibility. If it is unbearable, I will not make it on sale as it appears that with these loads of ingredients, I would rather not sell it for this price”.
“If it is only 50/50 for team’s preference, we will try to sell it according to our desire. We believe it is the “New”. We are not worried about irregular or first time customers as we have whole lots of existing menus to choose. However, we tend to have more regular customers. Therefore, new menus are out for them to try. This is the most fun part right now. We have to think and make new dessert. We even have many people taste. This is because we want them to taste quality products”.
Customers’ happiness is more important than circulation
If you take a really good look, you will notice that beside social media, After You barely intends to buy advertisement via television or radio. May see that small business with limited man power will have more difficulty handling everything once more crowd come through those advertisements. As she needs all customers’ 100% happiness, she has chosen not to promote café or discount.
To make business grow but no identity left behind
There are 15 After You branches in total and there is also a plan to expand the business to other provinces and countries. None of these plans was May’s ideas 9 years ago.
“At first, I was like a child having a dream of owning bakery business. I like to bake so I constantly collected recipes. I was even afraid of people stealing my ideas. I wanted to be the first to start Dessert café. There was people trying to persuade me to open a branch but I said no. That was because I wanted to make the best out of this one. As the business grew at one level, it used to be high end customers because of high price, high quality products used and many details in café. I didn’t think the market would be big. Once I started Aree branch at La Villa, the market happened to expand as there were various kinds of customers including young, workers or all kinds.
To start another branch in Central World, she found that After You market could penetrate family groups; not only Thai families but foreigners and tourists. That was the change for her and her cousin, Meatup, to seriously expand branches and rearrange the new working system from the ingredients measurements, products storage all the way through shipping to create products and service standard. Previous unclear ingredients measurements have been changed to become certain measurements as crucial basis of business management. Even location choice for each branch has become crucial.
“We try to take turn in opening each branch. If we do in shopping malls, we tend to earn more but we gain chain store images in exchange. If we do outside shopping malls, we will maintain adorable images of café”
“We need to give them the same services we want to be given” the services that have customers as first priority
Working with staff is one big problem in café business. We need to control both dessert and service quality in parallel for every branch. The more After You come with the title of people always waiting in line, the more pressure and criticism it needs to handle. Therefore, training system is very important. She also admitted that there will be mistakes. No one can control everything 100%.
Staff is the big issue for retail business. We are lucky that we grow quite slowly so we can carefully train our staff. Unlike us, many might deplore opportunities and money, we feel that our walk must be constant. Besides, we are certain that our staff will be able to instruct next generation what they know. It is like organizational culture. For example, we try to teach our staff from the first day to always smile as it is the service without energy waste. We must show them to have them absorb in order to become culture.
“We will let them think that the way we need to be treated is what we should do the same to customers. It is just little care”
Do not ignore customers’ problems
Business which is stepping closely to double digit will actually receive both positive and negative responses. She and her team never neglect complaints or criticism. Instead, she will always try to solve on by one. She sees that most people with complaints are in love with this café and this brand.
“Most people writing complaints want us to be better. It is better than they’ve found mistakes and they never mention. We are willing to let them complain. If there is any way we can fix, we will try”
“If we do business without problems, that would be strange. We just need to find reasons why and admit reality. For example, if new menu is not popular and we still argue that it is good, we will never understand”
It is to keep standard and do everything 100%
Each day May’s time will donate to work starting from driving back and ford After You Head Office in Phatthanakan where she and her team R&D invent new ideas of dessert, existing products quality inspection and new café management opening soon to support the increasing production including stock market documents management.
“Our motto is trying to make the least mistakes as possible. That is why inspection is important. I give my thump up to my brother as he is in charge of main operation and he is very accurate with details. It is the main thing to have the café stay long.”
It is not just management. Detail attention is hidden in decoration and contemporary mood and tone. “I think something classic tend to stay long. We just do our jobs; cleaning and keeping things new. Once cafés start to be dilapidated, we will renovate every 3 years”.
She added that After You grow quite slow when compare to other retail businesses while it is my own intention to make thing perfect 100% before moving on to the next step. Once business gain bigger scale, standard must be maintained as steady as the first day and mistakes must be made as least as possible.
“Things we have done since the first day will not be changed. This is another motto. If we must reduce, I will say no. If we must change brand, I will say no. I would rather not sell anything if I must change”.
Always look for new challenge
Next phase that catches mass media’s and investors’ eyes is to expand new branch in other provinces next year and look for international markets. She sees it as a good opportunity and a challenge to try new markets.
“Now we are getting used to business this scale as we can clearly see through. We have been raised in Thailand so we actually can tell which flavor Thai prefer and how their life styles and emotions are. As we move on to other places, we might not know what locals know. So, our hope is to meet a good partner who will help us when we expand our market”.
Talking to her make us realize more why small café in Thinglor can come this far. It is absolutely not just popular menus 9 years ago, but it is her intention and attention in every detail which become this brand inimitable DNA.
“We are not following trend from the very beginning. This is what we want our café to be. We are trying to do the best job, trying to maintain the same standard every time we make dessert and trying to provide the best service. If we can, customers are happy and then, they will return”.
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