Veteran bartender and hospitality aficionado Shawn Kishore has spent plenty of time behind the bar. So trust us when we say that he knows what the industry has been facing since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Previously the managing director of Bespoken Concepts, a bar consultancy with an events arm, Shawn is no neophyte when it comes to the F&B industry. He’s directed that experience into Five Ten, an unfussy Taiwanese dining concept, that later evolved into The Salted Plum. The original name of the restaurant was used as the group’s name, which now offers up other exciting concepts like Asian-inspired pasta at Pasta Supremo, cosy pub concept Bee’s Island Drinkery as well the Nomads, Singapore’s first central-Asian restaurant.
Through it all, he’s never changed from his earlier days in the industry: loud, boisterous and always witty, the restauranteur always looks for the mote of light in any dour situation. It’s this light-hearted resilience that served him well during Phase One of the circuit-breaker, which saw devastating closures and subsequent loss of revenue for many in the F&B industry.
Helping those in need
It was at this juncture that Shawn saw an opportunity to give back: both to the community, and his team. A joint initiative by the Octava Foundation and Agape Connection People roped in various eateries to sponsor meals for staffers tending to the Covid-19 National Hotline. The Salted Plum hopped on-board, enabling him to keep staff on the team while pivoting his concepts for delivery and takeaways. “It was a constant work-in-progress, but I’m glad we managed to pull through,” says Shawn.
His mother raised his two brothers and him alone, with many friends and family having gone the extra mile to help them. Now, he wants to give a little back, while hoping others would do the same.
That includes giving out free meals to those in need. Many F&B establishments were forced to cut back on benefits, including staff meals, amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Bacardi’s customer marketing manager Denise Khan, says Shawn, launched an initiative to provide complimentary meals for these workers. The Salted Plum and bar concept Barbary Coast participated in the initiative, which was mostly circulated on Whatsapp and Singapore Bartenders’ Forum (a Facebook page started by Shawn in 2011), urging those who could afford the meals to pay it forward to those who needed it more.
Says Shawn, “So far, we’ve given over a hundred free meals. It was slow at first because I think people were “paiseh” to be vulnerable and ask for a free meal, but we’re gradually seeing more redemptions.”
In his personal capacity, Shawb has also given some cash to those who need it on the Singapore Bartenders’ Forum, again with the hopes that they’d pass on the kindness in the future. “I just wanted to give back during times when I know people are truly struggling,” says Shawn. “It’s a simple way to help some peers through tough times – and hopefully they’ll remember to help others when they’re in a better position.”
Five Ten Holdings’ various concepts, like many other eateries that have opened in Phase Two, are adapting to the new normal and making the most of the real estate they have. At its core, the future of the group hasn’t changed, says Shawn. “Value-for-money cuisine with Asian-centric identities, memorable dining experiences and keeping great food accessible to families from all walks of life remains Five Ten Holdings’ vision.
That also means exploring future options – he’s got plans for a supper concept with a club partner and a Chinese-Indian curry house. The group might also consider working toward an Asian skewer eatery served along cocktails, inspired by a two-week yakitori pop-up they tried called the Drunken Plum. “We’re always working on ways to improve and concepts to explore,” says Shawn. “That’s crucial to thrive in this new landscape.” We can’t wait.