Regardless of economic conditions, food business in Malaysia is a blooming business sector. Why is that so? Because many Malaysians, especially those staying in urban and city areas, eat out most of the time! The huge population of young and middle aged people in Malaysia has resulted foreign restaurants and cafés becoming a big hit in the recent years. Foreign restaurants that has comed out on top include Korean and Japanese restaurants due to the local J-pop and K-pop popular trends.
To start a food business in Malaysia, there are several aspects to take into consideration. Since Malaysia is a Muslim country, the demand for Halal food is high. In spite of that, many restaurants has not registered for a Halal certification from JAKIM (Malaysian Islamic Development Department). Alternatively, they put up a signages stating “We do not serve pork or alcohol”, and hire Muslim staffs. However, religious Muslims may not consider dining at these restaurants as they are not certified by JAKIM. Customers who are looking for authentic food may not opt to eat at such restaurants too. This is similar to, if a customer wanted to dine in an authentic Japanese restaurant, he would prefer a restaurant that serves alcohol and pork; just like one in Japan.
While staffing for local staff may be a problem in Malaysia, most restaurant owners opt to hire foreign workers to run their businesses as the cost is almost 40% lower. It is now very common to see restaurants in Malaysia runned solely by foreign workers from Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh etc.
Besides that, the location of the restaurant plays a very important part too. People living in rural areas in Malaysia may not favour foreign food as much as the city population do. The location must also be easy accessible and have ample parking space as most Malaysians drive and rarely take public transportation. Patrons in city areas are more generous when it comes to spending on food too. We also have certain parts of the city that are famous for foreign restaurants. These areas are high in density with foreign expatriates or permanent residents.
Another aspect to take into consideration is the pricing. Serving delicious food alone is not enough, as the market is competitive. Depending on the crowd you are attempting to draw, the prices play a big role in attracting customers. An increasing number of Malaysians are searching for reviews online before they visit a restaurant. It is a very common for restaurants in Malaysia to reward their clients with rebates or vouchers by getting them to post reviews online or like their page in Facebook.
Malaysia has always kept its door open to welcome foreign investors to start businesses in Malaysia. The food industry in Malaysia is a very strong and stable industry to invest in because Malaysians love to eat, eat and eat! I personally visit Japanese restaurants on a regular basis! Two more negima yakitori, please!!