An interview with Karin van Vilet, founder of EATSingapore
The inner foodie in me got super excited when I first saw the bright red EATSingapore book. I was at The Hangar (read our review here) and sitting at the counter was this gorgeous, red book with the big word EAT on the cover. Of course, I had to pick it up. Flipping through the beautifully designed pages with pictures and personal write-ups on each restaurant, I knew it was something that was going to go home with me.
The $65 we spent on the red EATSingapore 2016 edition was well worth it, and not just for the free main we received at each restaurant. It was more about the overall experience, the supper clubs that were formed with other friends who had the book, the restaurants we would have never tried that ended up being fantastic, not having to wade through a mass of reviews or recommendations on where to go (that in itself was priceless!) and just getting us to go out. The EATSingapore book paid for itself many times over and I was thrilled meet Karin, the founder of EAT in Asia at their 2017 book launch.
Find out more about the founders, Peter and Karin and how the EAT concept works here in Singapore as we chat to Karin. I’m also bursting with excitement about what’s to come in 2017 and 2018. Read on!
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and why you decided to start EATSingapore.
Peter and I have been living in Asia for quite some time now. Peter is originally from Stockholm and moved to Japan in 1998. He has lived in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Singapore since. While trying out different companies and entrepreneurial projects, food has always remained a passion for Peter, both professionally and personally.
I moved from Amsterdam to Singapore in 2008 and worked for and with the F&B industry in my first years here. I have always loved the vibrancy of the industry.
The EAT concept started 12 years ago in Stockholm with the aim to get people to try out new restaurants in different parts of the city. It was an instant success and over the years the founder expanded the concept to different cities in Europe. Two years ago he looked at Asia and got in touch with Peter. With us both being foodies, Peter already working in the F&B industry (distributor of Nordaq FRESH) and me looking for a new venture, it was an easy decision to get started with EAT in Singapore. We just launched our 2017 edition which is our 2nd book and it’s a great journey so far!
I have the very first edition of the EATSingapore Book for 2016 and am such a fan. What have we got to look forward to in EATSingapore 2017?
12 new restaurants and some extra perks, especially for you!
The great thing about EATSingapore is that you will get 12 new restaurants to visit with each edition. We don’t want to repeat restaurants from the previous year since Singapore has so much to offer. We really hope our book helps people to try out new places – restaurants they haven’t heard of before, cuisines they normally don’t try or even going to areas they normally don’t visit.
It’s so rewarding to hear stories from book owners about restaurants they have visited, the unique experience they had and how they’ve gone back again to introduce the place to other friends. That’s what EAT is about – trying restaurants and sharing the ones you love with friends to spread the love further and ultimately giving restaurants more and more great guests.
For 2017 we have partnered up with some Friends to offer you even more perks from brands we love. We think our readers will really enjoy these. We have partnered up with Cloudy Bay and Ruinart champagne who offer you special promotions at selected restaurants. We love the freshly roasted coffee beans from Perk Coffee (read their story here) and are proud to have them featured in our book this year. Lastly we offer an exclusive membership at Swiss Butchery and Frish Seafood which entitles you to instore discounts, great for the evenings you’re hosting a dinner at home.
New this year is our charity project which we are very excited about. For every book we sell, we donate $2 to Venture 2 Impact and we’re joining them on their upcoming volunteering week at Batam in February. It’s so rewarding to give something back and help people improve their lives in a lasting way by offering them education and tools to make a lasting impact.
Who do you think would most appreciate an EATSingapore book and why?
I see a lot of women buying EATSingapore for their husband, making it their date night book. They say it helps them to try new places and makes it more of a habit to go on a monthly date. They really enjoy going somewhere different each time instead of the standard restaurant around the corner.
It’s also very popular for couples or new arrivals in Singapore to help them explore the city. Because we select 12 restaurants only, people feel they can manage to do that in a year – whether it’s once a month or sometimes twice a month, it is doable to visit all. On top of that – since it’s a recommendation guide and we hand-pick the restaurants, it takes the guess-work out of the planning. Lastly, it really helps people to explore cuisines and restaurants they might not have tried before. Since it’s recommended, people dare to try more which we think is great because it expands people’s culinary experiences.
Since we’re so close to Christmas, it’s also the perfect gift for anybody. I mean, who doesn’t like to go out for dinner. With our book, we make it as easy as possible to go to great restaurants and get a complimentary main course at the same time.
So how does it work?
Its really simple. You get the EAT book, visit one of the featured restaurants with a friend or partner, order two mains and one of them will be complimentary. That’s it! Of course you have to bring your book with you to get the free main course.
Perhaps the most exciting part of our book is that the chef or restaurant manager will sign your book. This makes each book a personal keepsake of the restaurants you’ve visited. You can do this at each restaurant, giving you 12 main courses for free and 12 unique experiences with the Chef signing your book.
I think this makes EAT such a great experience because it’s very personal and gives you a bit of a sneak peek into each restaurant so you can learn more about it if you want to.
Can you let us know how you select the restaurants?
Peter and I have personally dined at each of the selected restaurants so you can be assured that these are our personal recommendations. We have 5 criteria we keep in mind at each restaurant. The quality of the food, the service level, the uniqueness of the concept, the type of cuisine and the location of the restaurant. This is to ensure that we curate a list of 12 different and unique restaurants, ranging from Western to Asian cuisine and anything in between, as well as venues in different locations around Singapore.
It’s obviously tough to have only 12 spots available but we have lots of fun tasting at so many venues. At the same time, we carefully pick which ones are in the EAT book and we really enjoy seeing the list come together with 12 unique experiences.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in the 2017 edition?
All of them, of course! I can’t say I have one favorite since it really depends on what cuisine, location or mood I’m in for my restaurant visit.
That’s the great thing with the EAT book. I feel that we provide options for all of that. Are you looking for a well known, centrally located restaurants? Or are you more in the mood for a hidden gem? We’ve got them. Each EAT edition offers 12 different cuisines and experiences so that there’s always something for you when you’re looking for a specific location, cuisine or mood.
I know 2017 hasn’t even started yet but, what’s next for EATSingapore? It’s such a great concept, what other exciting things are you hoping to do?
We of course want to launch EAT in other cities in Asia. We’re talking to people in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai and we hope to add at least another two cities for 2018.
For Singapore, we want to launch Chef’s Dinners. These would be Invite Only dinners at our featured restaurants, either to highlight a collaboration between two chefs, showcase new menu items or a wine-pairing dinner with the wine maker present. This is why we ask people to register their book (which they can do with their unique book numbers on eatsingapore.sg/register). This way we can invite you for these special dinners.
Another project we’re talking about is an EATSingapore Kids or Family version. We have a lot of families asking us to help them find restaurants they can bring their kids to that aren’t the typical kid-friendly restaurant. I think this will be exciting since it will challenge the chefs at a different level. Looking at kids these days, they’re exposed to so much more than what I grew up with. They’re much more open to try and explore different cuisines because they can and because parents want to give their kids options.
Then we’re also thinking of doing a cookbook, international EAT-chef collaborations and expanding on our charity element to make that a bigger part of the business. There’s more than enough to keep us busy!
Is there any advice you’d give to someone wanting to start their own publication and business?
Do it! If you want to start your own business – just do it. Of course you need to think it through, plan and strategize, etc. But don’t wait for the perfect moment since that will never come.
We started off while both working full-time which was a challenge because we had very little free time, but it also gave us the chance to focus on what we thought was right for the brand instead of what would make us money right away. I think it’s important to keep that in mind. Of course we want to make money with our book, but we also want to stay true to the concept and offer value to the restaurants, so it’s important to make sure you have the balance right.
Another piece of advice I would give is – start small. We made the mistake of thinking our product would sell itself since it’s such a great concept. And it does sell itself – once people know it. However, people still need to get to know us and understand the EAT concept before they purchase it.
In the end, if you have an idea and want to start a business or launch someing, really, do it. It’s exciting, challenging, rewarding and scary all at once, but I love the fact that it’s my business and that I’m the one making it a success. Because when you do have a WIN moment – it’s the best feeling in the world, and that’s what you keep chasing. Meaning you will keep growing and improving your business!
For more information, visit eatsingapore.sg
All images have been provided by EATSingapore unless otherwise noted.
This interview was originally published on www.vanillabeige.com.