A coffee conversation among best friends led Fathia Syarif, Sari Nila, Lina Sinaga and Brenda Rumahlewang to introduce a new lifestyle trend to Indonesia. Their Bagel Bagel shop, selling that oh-so-famous bakery treat, has captured Jakarta and may soon be coming to a suburb near you.
Bagels, a bread product similar to doughnuts, are a popular breakfast item in the United States. Best paired with coffee, they have become a savior for those with limited time to eat before rushing to the office.
Bagel shops such as Noah’s in California attract thousands of customers every day with their huge array of sweet and savory toppings and fast service. Jakarta’s own Bagel Bagel is following the example set by the great American bagel shops and is helping people get their favorite breakfast fix all day long.
It has been six months since Fathia Syarif, Sari Nila, Lina Sinaga and Brenda Rumahlewang brought Bagel Bagel to Kemang and entered the competitive world of food and beverage.
Not that it’s been hard for the women to find their niche. Bagel Bagel is the only store in Jakarta that specializes in selling bagels. “It’s something new for the city,” Fathia, a former spokeswoman for Shell Indonesia, told GlobeAsia.
It was not difficult for Bagel Bagel to tap into the market. Through social media and word of mouth, this small bagel shop located on Jalan Benda has become the most popular place to visit. “Facebook and Twitter have really supported our marketing,” Fathia says.
“Surprisingly, the Jakarta adaptation of a US bagel shop has done well, beyond even our own predictions. But it’s not that hard to introduce something like Bagel Bagel, because people already know the product from the movies, holidays, and they’re not scared to try it.”
The shop’s menu is broad, in order to capture a greater slice of the café-going public. “We have plain bagels, bagels with onion, raisins or chocolate and our most favorite dine-in or take-away option – the sandwich bagel,” says Fathia. “Most people love the salmon and Philly steak. We also have a special of the month, which follows the seasons.”
One customer, Astri, prefers to enjoy her beef bacon, egg and cheese bagel as a take-away treat. The shop is too crowded, she says. Meanwhile, Aria likes to stay and enjoy the hubbub. “The shop is small, I reckon maximum 20 people,” he says. “It’s really like the places in the US where you can meet new friends over a chat about bagels. If you can get a seat, that is.”
When Bagel Bagel first opened, the place was not too crowded and the store would bake minimum quantities. But today, Bagel Bagel produces at least 250 bagels every day with prices starting from around Rp10,000. As an added bonus, they do a delivery service as far as Jalan Sudirman and also make mini bagels, which are perfect for office meetings and canapés.
Business has been growing fast, almost too fast, says Fathia. The four ladies are already formulating their expansion plans. “When we first started, we thought a small shop would be enough,” Fathia says. “Turns out it’s not, so that’s why we’re thinking about growing the business further.”
Bigger and better
Fathia says while she and her friends had an inkling the shop would do well, they were not expecting to have to execute the next steps of their business plan within six months of opening. “We are not reckless women who organically establish a business without a strong plan,” she says. “We’d figured out some plans for the future but were shocked that we had to use them so soon.”
The fact Bagel Bagel has surprised its owners with its fast earning capacity in such a short period of time, even approaching return on investment, means the four friends are thinking about how best to capitalize on the positive momentum. Expansion is definitely the word on everyone’s lips.
For Fathia, who grew to love bagels during her time living in Philadelphia in the US, all business prospects for Bagel Bagel are possibilities. “It is either having an investor or franchise, whatever is the best for Bagel Bagel to widen its position in the market,” she says.
Bagel Bagel was created as a small, intimate shop and the concept will stay the same, Fathia says. “We’re considering entering shopping malls, and not just for take away. We want to indulge the dining experience too,” she says.
The plan for 2012 is to have five or six new stores open and a separate central kitchen set up to do all the baking. Of course, the challenge for these happy housewives is to find the perfect partner to boost capital.
“The investment will cost somewhere below Rp1 billion,” Fathia says.
“However, our calculations suggest the central kitchen might boost the budget, especially when you consider the cost of ovens and production.”
“We’ve met several potential investors, yet the challenge is to connect our vision with theirs,” she adds. “For now, we are focused on Jakarta, but who knows, we might expand to other cities in no time.”
Despite the fact that competition, expansion and capital are all battlefields in their own right, for Fathia, Sari, Brenda and Lina, Bagel Bagel is one sexy business. The concept reflects their youthful personalities, while their management style shows their professionalism and entrepreneurship.
Without doubt, Bagel Bagel has captured the attention of the market and thanks to these fantastic four, something fresh from the oven will always be served to you. GA