1. Yes, we invested a lot (7-figures) to make it a nice cool place comparable to Kuta Bali, Hawaii, Phuket etc. The umbrellas are Aussie and the woodwork and furniture are all hardwood. We wanted to create a “postcard’ look because we could not find a beautiful place to bring friends. It was always hawker food or expensive hotels in Ferringhi.
2. Yes, we built from zero from the ground up on a bare land. Rain is the biggest issue but we have a 60 seat aircon area and retractable canopies. We could easily cover everything but that would defeat the concept. We did not want to sacrifice the “openness” under the stars. We are not fine dining but casual so even beach wear is fine! We also created the First Fish Bar (where you can drink with the fishes) in Malaysia at great expense. Not many people are aware but we have a rooftop that has a fantastic view – so far we have had a few private dinners there. Later it will be done up as a roof-garden cosy area.
3. Yes, on the first month of opening since 19dec, we had problems with the food and service. I’ll address the food later. On service, we wanted to be purist and refused to hire foreign floor staff but stuck with Malaysians. Our menu was new to the staff because they only know steaks, burger, sandwiches i.e. standard fare. They never ever experienced Hawaiian fusion and that resulted in the inability to explain or recommend the food properly even though we did train. They punch in the wrong orders etc on the computerized POS system etc. Our new revised menu (est. start 8feb) will have simplified codes numbers and pictures. And yes, sad to say, but poor attitude, indifference and poor communication seems to be a Malaysian workforce problem. We will now look to hire few foreign staff just to do running (delivery, clearing etc). We are willing to pay more to use Captains/Supervisors to take orders. We will also put up a customer comment card by 8 feb. Staff with good comments will get immediate bonus.
4. We are well aware of pricing and strive to keep it reasonable- everyone can compare. For example, small starters “tapas” are below RM5.00 ( 10+ choices). Soups are RM5.80. Salads are RM7.80 but will be revised to RM5.80. Chicken Pie is 4” round and RM5.80 with fries (remember our pies & burgers are Snacks not full meal). Main grills (8 choices) are RM19.80 incl rice or pasta, slaw, pickle & sauces. Pastas (6 choices) are RM13.80. Of course for Xmas, New Year etc it will cost more for a full 5-course set – at our neighbour outlet, you are given only 2 hours to eat and leave…and higher price than us! To be fair, special occasions you are also paying for the location and the higher costs incurred.
5. Our food portions are not large for sure. Our concept is not for a big fast meal just to fill your stomach. Coming to STICKS should be for the classy yet relaxed ambience and slowly enjoy a starter, a soup or salad and the Main with a cocktail/wine and maybe dessert with coffee. Yes, it may blow your budget to have the full course but it shouldn’t be all the time – also better to do the Lunch Set @RM13.80 or Dinner Set @RM33 (new menu). Other times, a beer/cocktail and pasta/snack is what many of our regulars go for. By the way, we are increasing the size of the Main to cater for the younger (& hungrier) people.
6. On the food there are several issues. First, I agree the Menu was confusing so we are changing to a simplified with pictures ( some people don’t read English too). Second, as I said before, our staff was unable to communicate properly – our food is modern so many people are not sure what we are about. Third, some fusion items are not for everyone eg sardine pasta – you have to like sardines or a little adventurous in the first place….but still it remains our top pasta seller today.. ….even our neighboring outlet manager buys it home after his place closes. I know customers don’t want to know excuses but it is sad in Malaysia we get unscrupulous suppliers who give you good stuff for testing then gives you 2nd grade once you are successful. We have changed and put in strict controls but will still have to look out all the time. So, we value feedback. I think in F&B there will be some OFF days but what is important is we keep listening and improving. We do not believe in a having a laundry list of items because 80% of customers order 20% of the items. To me, a long menu means you have no concept and you fear to lose out and want to serve everyone. Also, I question the freshness and the chef skills. Personally, I avoid outlets with long menus and go for places with special items – but that is my choice. The other fact is we use only fresh ingredients even up to making our own sauces- we have a Peppercorn & a Spicy BBQ as well as own salad dressings. The pickle is also from fresh fruits.
7. On the drinks, again we offer some drinks that would be the first time in Malaysia. On the new menu, we are putting in more description and pictures so you don’t order something you don’t like. A tip which I do when I go places: If you are a drinks person, always go to the bar and talk to the bartender and discuss preferences….sometimes I even get free tasting if it is not a standard drink! For example, our homemade Tamarind drink (no preservatives or flavoring) is sour, sweet with a slight bitter after taste. We tested on many customers and mostly girls like it. Others ok but some guys think it is weird. Well….not for everyone….( I will tell the staff to let customers try first if it is first time for them). We stick to our tropical concept and offer some unique cocktails: COCOKAKA (whole coconut, vodka, ++) & PIPIRUM (whole pineapple, rum, ++) are our top sellers.
8. We always want to be better and appreciate all comments good or bad. We have now done about 20 private functions from 15 to 60 pax and we have upcoming a Porsche dinner party & an “Online Dating Service” Event (believe it or not over 100 pax! From Spore!).
I know some of you may be very put off by the bad experience you had at STICKS- I would be too if it was me – I would like to offer my sincere apologies for our shortcomings. Because of the start up problems as mentioned above, I am willing to give anyone of you a FREE meal anytime to compensate. Just email me at [email protected] and I will see to it. Of course, Fridays & Sats tend to be a bit crazy so please try to make it a weekday if possible.
I thank you for coming to STICKS in the first place even though for some of you the food and service was a major disappointment. As a consolation, everyone says it is a great place. What pisses me off is I have friends who travel everywhere and say how great this place and that place is and run down Penang. But when in Penang, they complain that the Char Koay Teow is expensive at Rm5.00 etc when they pay USD5 or EURO5 overseas for a damn coffee or cold sandwich. If this mentality keeps up, we will always be living in lowcost flats! Even my best friends advise me against doing an upscale concept because Penangnites are stingy, cannot appreciate, used to hawker food, cannot behave etc..the list goes on! Living in Penang and having seen nice places overseas, my challenge and vision is to create a beautiful outlet that locals and tourists can be proud off without having to pay an arm and leg for.