Shi Hui Yuan began as a humble hawker stall at Mei Ling Market in 1969. Famed for its collagen-rich gravy and nutrient-loaded herbal braising sauce that has been cooked uninterrupted for the last 30 years, the brand built its pool of regular customers who return for the delicious and inimitable dishes over the years.
With Shi Hui Yuan’s owners coming of retirement age, the team saw an opportunity to forge a business partnership to preserve local heritage food and to grow the brand for more people to enjoy the uniquely Singapore flavour. It subsequently embarked on a brand transformation journey, which ultimately saw it winning the silver award for Excellence in Marketing Transformation and bronze for Excellence in Shopper Marketing in this year’s Marketing Excellence Awards.
Revitalising and scaling up a traditional hawker brand in the digital age requires careful and integrated business and marketing transformation. Amidst a challenging environment, further aggravated by COVID-19, there is a need to sustain business and expand operations beyond the pool of regular customers. More so now than ever, changes and new strategies are needed fast to ensure that Shi Hui Yuan remains viable and visible.
Being a brand with zero prior digital presence, there is also an even greater need to connect with millennials and younger generations. These are the same people who will be part of Shi Hui Yuan’s future customers. Additionally, marketing transformation efforts will also have to be carefully mediated to ensure that the company’s authentic touch and traditional values are not diluted.
Shi Hui Yuan’s key objectives were to:
- • Transform business into a position to scale, and expand the Shi Hui Yuan’s footprint with minimal disruption to the existing store
- • Ensure that SHI HUI YUAN remains relevant in reaching out to current and new audiences including millennials, while preserving the original soul of the brand
- • Diversify and increase revenue streams
Shi Hui Yuan tackled its challenge through “see”, “hear”, “touch”, and “taste”. Under the “see” approach, it refreshed its branding and revitalised its image. This comes as its original store is dated and dark, which results in customers’ attention often slipping away.
For the “hear” approach, Shi Hui Yuan wanted to communicate its unique selling points (USPs) and health benefits. As its accolades and USPs were not prominently displayed and clearly communicated, it sought to highlight the health benefits of its dishes which have been scientifically tested at R&D food laboratories. The brand also looked to communicate the USPs of Shi Hui Yuan with quantifiable measurements.
Meanwhile, its “touch” approach sees Shi Hui Yuan attempt to bring the brand closer to its consumers with more touchpoints.
Since its original store is located in Mei Ling Market, accessible only by local residents or PMETS who drive out for lunch, Shi Hui Yuan attempted to extend its reach by:
- Enabling delivery through the major delivery marketplaces to reach more consumers islandwide
- Establishing brand presence to engage Millennials and communicate valuable attributes of the brand
- Developing a virtual brand that leverages Shi Hui Yuan’s branding and kitchen, to increase revenue stream and attract new customers with minimal costs or risk
Last but not least, for its “taste” approach, the brand looked to introduce new products to complement familiar favourites. While retaining its specialities is necessary, there is also a need to cater to the younger demographic who are seeking unique mealtime experiences in line with their preferences.
Thus the brand looked to redesign its packaging to enhance quality and user-friendliness, introduce new innovative creations to widen offerings and meet growing demand for healthier meals, as well as revitalise classics by giving customers new experiences though different ways of eating.
In executing transformation strategies from paper to reality, the team ensured that each initiative was implemented with scalability in mind.
Look and Feel
The brand refreshed the brand logo and incorporated conventional brush strokes which reflected its heritage of over 50 years. It also injected its original “thumbs up” sign into one of the Chinese characters in the new logo to give a hint of the finest and superb quality of the food as well as paying homage to the visual cue used in the original Mei Ling Street stall sign board.
The brand’s refreshed look and feel were implemented in the new stores and online presence for a consistent omnichannel experience. In order to retain the brand heritage as well as to minimise disruptions in day-to-day operations, the original Mei Ling Street outlet was left untouched. As the stores are mainly situated in food courts, Shi Hui Yuan also took into account typical customer behaviour, which is to “look around” before choosing what to eat. Hence, the team ensured that the storefront is engaging to capture attention and interest.
F&B Visual Merchandising
For its merchandise design, up to 15 well-known herbs are displayed in jars labelled with their corresponding health benefits. Earthen pots containing the gravy, mushroom, ribs and chicken feet are also placed at the counter in customers’ full view. These were to emphasise on using quality ingredients and strict processes to nourish its customers.
Form and function
The stores have also been designed with the optimal workflow in mind to improve productivity. Store operations have also been standardised to enable easy replication and quick expansion, a method that has proven both useful and successful in the setting up of new stores. Standardisation also allows for franchising possibility in expanding Shi Hui Yuan’s footprint.
In line with Shi Hui Yuan’s vision to scale, remain relevant and diversify revenue streams, the team carefully created Tubby Belly, a new, virtual, delivery-only brand operating out of SHI HUI YUAN’s existing kitchen. This helps Shi Hui Yuan appeal to a new younger group of customers with the colourful branding and playful brand persona, attract rice eaters and carbohydrate lovers and also maximise sales per square foot.
Expounding on the strategy of operating two different brands from each physical location, Tubby Belly is available solely via food delivery platforms. Shi Hui Yuan made use of multiple online and offline touchpoints to reach out to its customers, such as social media and delivery platforms.
Apart from the usual food delivery platforms, the team also did active social listening and quickly tapped into existing trends within the social media community, such as estate group buying partnerships. These resulted in word of mouth marketing beyond just the estates nearby Shi Hui Yuan outlets.
Additionally, the brand launched a Corporate Orders Programme with its flagship store in the Central Business District, to cater to business customers placing bulk orders as well as allow customers to skip the queue by ordering ahead before picking up.
New user-friendly packaging
Understanding the paramount importance of quality in Singapore’s “dabao” (takeaway) culture, and the unstoppable force of demand for delivery, Shi Hui Yuan redesigned its takeaway packaging to ensure Shi Hui Yuan’s quality remains uncompromised no matter the channel of sales.
Shi Hui Yuan’s sales output exceeded topline revenue target by 67%, and it sold close to 10,000 bowls in the first month. Delivery sales also increased from 5%-10% to 30%. Its corporate delivery increased 2.5 fold as well, from 75 bowls to over 200 bowls in a month.
The brand also got six media features, of which 85% of it is organic. That reflected a combined PR Value of more than SG$40,000.