If you want a table at Love Desserts during peak hours, get in line. These days the waiting list is long, but when the dessert buffet opened in December 2011, it was a completely different story.
“The first two months were really unforgettable for me,” says co-founder Jen Chua. The now-sought-after dessert buffet launched to a lukewarm reception: Sure, her friends stopped by for the first few days. But after that, customers trickled in. A low point saw Love Desserts entertaining only around four customers daily—nine on a good day.
“We [wondered] how long we would be able to sustain the losses we incurred every day,” she recalls. “We had to prepare everything, not knowing how many people would come in.”
But instead of losing hope, she refused to throw in the towel—not until she had given it her all. Chua toughed it out and found ways to bootstrap: She closed off an area of the restaurant, turned off an air-conditioning unit to save power, and trimmed items from the menu to reduce food waste.
She hung in there, and before long, the tide turned: The concept of an affordably priced one-stop dessert destination caught on, especially among students. Now, Chua is preparing to franchise the concept and open a second branch within the year.
“Experience in business is expensive. The risk of going up or down is always there,” she says. “When you start a business, [you have to] be able to accept that it can all be charged to experience.”
Photo: Heidi Aquende
This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Entrepreneur magazine. Subscribe to the print or digital version here.