Well-travelled and equally well-informed, CEO of Caerus Holding’s Vijay Pillai is no neophyte to finding good food – and good business opportunities. There’s Lady M, 2013’s mille crepe sensation from New York that’s ethereal lightness and sinful decadence in equal measure; or Copenhagen’s Leckerbaer, which started selling their artfully created pastries from their first branch in Singapore earlier this year (right next to Luke’s Lobster, in fact).
It’s that keen sense of what’s good that led Pillai to Luke’s Lobster: having first tasted it five years ago while on holiday in New York. It was a recommendation from his (then) girlfriend, and an occasion made doubly memorable as it was his first time tasting a lobster roll. “One of the things that really caught my attention was the razor focus on the core product,” says Pillai. The shack he dined at was simple and nondescript, but the quality of seafood spilling out from the roll left an indelible mark on the entrepreneur.
More than just excellent seafood though, it was Luke’s Lobster’s unflinching commitment to their brand that struck a chord with Pillai. “We make it a point to take our time to get to know the brand owner and really understand the vision for their brand: I spent a significant amount of time with Luke’s family to learn not just about their business but also their roots to the business.”
That commitment to controlling its entire supply chain “right down to the piers”, resulting in traceable, sustainable seafood that can be delivered at the right price points anywhere in the world, says Pillai, is what made the seafood chain a perfect partner.
It’s a lesson learnt, in fact, from Pablo Cheese Tart – wildly popular and delightfully oozy, demand was never an issue for the Japanese import. Instead, the issue of costs stemming from an erratic supply chain sealed the fate for Pablo. That said, it’s all part of the process that has helped Caerus Holdings grow for the better, says Pillai.
With a proven track record for importing authentic culinary experiences from abroad, the next logical step would be integrating them into the local scene in a big way. That means curating a portfolio of strong performers that complement each other, and serving them up to traditional retail environments like departmental stores and malls – sort of like a mall-basement dining starter pack, except one that you’d actually look forward to going to.
After all, it’s a vibrant tenant mix that keeps shoppers coming back day after day. Caerus Holding’s latest additions to Orchard Road might just be the inception of greater things to come. By filling the area with unique experiences, particularly gastronomical ones, that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Singapore – or the world.