We chat with 39-year-old Associate Lecturer from the Diploma in Restaurant and Culinary Operations, Mr Reuben Anand Thyagarajan who brings years of experience from the food and beverage industry.
Q: What are the kind of ingredients needed to become a successful businessman or is down to pure luck?
A: The most important ingredient will be the ability to communicate effectively with different people and the ability to understand the person you are talking to, their background and adjusting your character to connect with them. Once you connect with someone, you can accomplish a lot together. That ability to communicate and understand people is vital.
Q: You spent eight years in Melbourne, Australia where you taught as well. How are Australian students different from Singapore students?
A: The Australian students are more outspoken and not at all shy to express their views, even the sensitive ones. Singaporean students tend to stick more to the guidelines when they are in the classroom whereas Australian students bring in more of their experiences, their personal stories and other aspects of campus life during discussion. To me, Singaporean students are self-conscious.
Q: You have been a manager at a restaurant and bar in Australia before. Is managing a restaurant all about ensuring you serve great food or is there more to it?
A: Managing a restaurant or any other hospitality establishment is almost like being a circus juggler. You have to manage the staff, deal with the different guests. If you just satisfy them all at a superficial level and go by the book, you may be able to get by but if you really want your guest to feel like they have had a special experience then you need to understand what it takes and customize their experience according to their wants.
Q: You have a business catering food to foreign workers. Was there anything interesting that you learned from that experience?
A: Through some of the consulting projects I do, I met someone who happened to be the facilities manager of a shipyard. The shipyard has more than 100 foreign workers, coming from China, Myanmar, India and Bangladesh. So we actually took over the project to cater food for them. The interesting thing was seeing how foreigners consume almost 500 grams of rice each. I never knew one can actually eat that much at one go!
Q: The food and beverage industry is a huge one but can one really be a millionaire from this industry and if so what does it take?
A: Yes, a millionaire and more I would say. It doesn’t mean you have to set up a big restaurant even. Even a kiosk with an item that everybody loves and you have long queues of people who just crave your food, it shows you have hit the formula. If you look at the guys who opened Mr Bean, or even a good hawker stall, it started from scratch with a bit of experimentation here and there and they are wealthy.