Yelo! In this issue of Let’s TOC, we speak with Lester and Charmaine from Eat My CB, a homegrown F&B business born out of the circuit breaker. Read on as they share their branding strategy behind the business.
Born Out of CB (Circuit Breaker)
“When the government first announced the commencement of Circuit Breaker, my family of non-essential freelancers suddenly found ourselves out of jobs,” Lester recalled.
Current head chef of Eat My CB aka Mum Annie had been conducting cooking classes at home for 30 years when the circuit breaker measures were suddenly implemented last April. During this time, Mum Annie saw her peers embracing technology and pivoting to share their food and recipes via Facebook live stream. She too wanted to rise to the challenge of cooking live on social media for her friends and students. Lester shared, “I became her cameraman and my wife, Charmaine, helped answer the questions Mum’s viewers posted during the FB live session.”
To entice her online audience, Mum Annie would showcase unique dishes that viewers could prepare at home. The chicken curry bun was one of them. Charmaine explained to us, “A curry bun typically takes 2.5 hours to complete so we prepared it in 4 different stages to shorten the FB Live (Facebook live stream) duration. At the end of the session, we had 4 curry buns and we gave them to our family and neighbours.”
Having savoured the curry buns, family and neighbours asked if they could purchase them as gifts. Leveraging a whole new season of gifting during the circuit breaker, business gradually expanded beyond the team’s circle of supportive family and friends.
And that marked the start of an accidental home-based business to tide the family through the pandemic.
Curry Bun Branding
When asked about their unique selling proposition, Lester simply sang the praises of his mum, “What my mum prepares and feeds us is what she feeds our customers.”
According to Charmaine, “Curry and bread is a combination that many Singaporeans already love. It’s nothing special. But as they say, the simpler the dish, the more difficult it is to please.”
Eat My CB thus created a dish that is great for sharing – boneless chicken (the lazy ones can literally take a break from the grind) and perfect bite-sized potato bits (a highly debatable topic in the kitchen) immersed in good ol’ grandma’s type of curry, topped off with traditional white bread. Since this dish is typically enjoyed from the comfort of one’s home with family and loved ones, the “homeliness” of curry buns was in their favour during the circuit breaker period.
And here’s one of our biggest questions – why Eat My CB ? Lester admitted that it was a terrible name and was “only as good as the people who are willing to support us”.
“Hypothetically speaking as a branding designer, I would not recommend a brand name like this for my clients,” Lester told us. “To play it safe, and be tasteful of course. On a fair weather day, chances are, we would not have chosen a name like this.”
The term “circuit breaker” or “CB” (for the uninitiated – also a derogatory reference in the Hokkien dialect) might have given locals the liberty and creative license to play around with it, with new memes surfacing every other day. But for Lester’s family, times were bad with the household income suddenly reduced to zero. Naming their business “Eat My CB ” was a risk they had to take.
Intrigued by the giant CB on their Instagram profile, we asked them what their strategy was to get the brand name out. Scrambling to kickstart the business during Circuit Breaker, Lester shared that they had limited time and access to design, print and produce packaging design. And so to make up for the lack of branding and design, the team decided to personalise their packaging by writing the customers’ IG handles on plain white boxes.
Eventually, Lester (the doodler of the team) started writing messages and drawing on the boxes after “stalking” the customers’ profiles as a form of surprise. That led to user-generated content as customers jumped on the #supportlocal movement, tagging @eatmycb in their Instagram Stories to share their special buy of the day.
In the words of Lester, from the personalised drawing on every box, to the act of unwrapping the bread and the different layers to reveal the curry inside, they all add an interesting dimension to the dining experience.
Eat My CB is also known for its casual and witty tone of voice. “There’s a popular saying in advertising – Facts tell, stories sell. And I’m a big believer of that. Not how we make a curry bun but why we do it.”
Lester added, “Everyone in the family who had a flair for cooking quickly assumed roles in the kitchen. I tried to make myself useful by giving the brand a voice – relating our stories at home to our customers who gave us the chance and support. In hindsight, branding had played a significant role in getting eyeballs and sales traction.”
Behind Kitchen Doors
For all Eat My CB fans out there, we also asked Lester and Charmaine about another eyebrow-raising item on their menu and their future plans. If you didn’t already know, Eat My CB also sold Lemon Juice (or LJ) to pair with their CB. “After an LJ content meme went viral, customers have been asking for it and so we decided to launch it officially,” Charmaine explained.
Lester attributed the lack of more offerings on the menu to their efforts to streamline their processes for maximum efficiency. He did tell us, however, that if they could manage, vegetarian curry buns could possibly be in the pipeline (or oven if you prefer). And everyone, the young and the young at heart, can get a bite of that bun!
An advice from the couple: “Don’t be motivated by money; be motivated by your purpose and passion. It’s easy to start a business, but hard to sustain one. When the going gets tough, the former will quit and the latter will find a way to thrive and hopefully succeed.”
Lester and Charmaine recalled their biggest branding hurdle – differentiating their offering from what has been fondly known as “Golden Pillow”. How should they create a branding that would not live under the shadows of the incumbent big brother?
“But 10 months into the business. We find big bro Golden Pillow calling themselves a Curry Bun. That to us, is a branding success.”
We would like to thank Lester and Charmaine from Eat My CB for sharing their stories with us. If you’re craving a CB after reading this article, head over to their website and place your orders here: https://eatmycb.sg/