Back in the late 1990s when they were polytechnic classmates, the young William Goh and Thomas Lim found handling food and supplies a hassle whenever they planned barbeque parties. However, it was precisely this problem that led them to embark on their business venture in 2001: BBQHouse, a one-stop shop that provides on-site barbecuing services and delivery of pre-grilled food items.
“My father has been running a satay business in Katong since the 1980s. So in a sense, BBQHouse was inspired by the opportunity to continue building the business he established,” Mr Goh said.
For three years, the duo was — literally — hands-on with their business. In the early days, BBQHouse did not have specialised machines in the central kitchen, and cooks had to be hired to fulfil every single order. This meant that BBQHouse was often unable to meet overly large orders owing to a lack of production capability.
Mr Goh recalled that orders were taken by phone, then painstakingly jotted down in pocket notebooks — sometimes even during delivery runs. “The orders often did not tally, or there would be mistakes. It was very difficult in the beginning,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest problem was managing payment, which was cash on delivery. Aside from the hassle of preparing money, customers would sometimes cancel orders at the last minute on rainy days. “No barbecue: no payment. It’s very simple, and it happened a lot,” Mr Lim said.