“I’m not joking when I say outer space will be the game field of the future. I’d open a bar in space when the time comes,” says Tay Eu-Yen, 42, Of-Counsel at Providence Law Asia. You may remember her for The Butter Factory nightclub she co-founded at 25.
By the time she was 12, the go-getter knew she wanted to be a lawyer and at 16, she was certain she would also own a club. She tells us she has always had this heightened sense of self-awareness.
Tay is future-forward. After 15 years as general counsel to her F&B and nightlife concepts, she now sits on the advisory boards of Purpose Venture Capital and Innovate360. The former focuses on investing in sustainable technology that advances the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The latter is an incubator of food science start-ups.
She’s also on the advisory board of legal tech start-up, Asia Law Network. All are pro-bono. In November last year, she temporarily shuttered Coterie Concepts, an F&B group best known for its 1980s Hong Kong- themed Asian bar Sum Yi Tai due to the pandemic, due to a variety of reasons including a landlord who insisted on charging pre-Covid rental rates. “With Coterie Concepts, I learnt that plans do not move on a trajectory from point A to B. You just have to roll with it.”
In these unpredictable times, even F&B veterans are struggling. So Tay is legal advisor to and a management committee member of the Restaurant Association of Singapore, and legal advisor to and exco member of the Singapore Nightlife Business Association, which she co- founded in 2013. Both associations are extremely active in lobbying for policy and legislative improvements for their sectors.
“I am a lawyer who spent 15 years managing nightlife and F&B businesses as CEO, so I understand all the issues first-hand,” affirms Tay. “I also understand the pitfalls that would be blind spots to legal advisors who have never operated a business. I do this because I get it, and I want to help!” She has a clear vision of the future of F&B. She believes many more of these businesses, from producers to distributors, would merge with the tech industry.
Yet, she knows that traditions and human elements will continue to play key roles to balance the impersonal trait of technology. “As much as everybody wants to digitalise and progress, these industries strive on being human. I’d still like to dine at a small pub with a server who tells me the specials from his memory and meet a chef who greets me with desserts from his grandmother’s recipe book,” opines Tay.
She shares that there will be a fresh wave of personalisation and those who can plan for that, against the tide now, will be ahead. The second key to the future lies in sustainable practices. Tay received certification from the Global Reporting Initiative for sustainability reporting standards and now includes corporate sustainability in her practice, “to contribute to this unfolding revolution to make sustainability part of the fun.”
Tay has seen it all. The developments in the legal space and her own experiences while studying the subject helped her to understand that sustainability has become a key performance indicator in business and an important check box for investors.
Hence, she urges the next generation of businesspeople and entrepreneurs to think hard about incorporating environmental, social, and corporate governance for sustainability in their game plans. It’s not about predicting the future. It’s about building it, while having a drink in space.