Sunday, July 20, 2014

How much do you really need to open a restaurant/cafe in Singapore?

You're a fresh grad out of university or you're one of those who have been dreaming about opening a restaurant or cafe and now you're raring to go to make your dreams come true. I have once been in this position - trying to live my glamorous dream, but yet not too sure on whether I had enough money to start off.

How much do you really need to budget your costs before setting up your restaurant or cafe?

This weekend I have the privilege to meet up with one of my former classmate who has been in the F&B business for the past couple of years. Through our conversation, I managed to gather some important considerations which I hope will help those who are thinking of setting up their own F&B business.

Before we start, I would like to present the hard truth figure to those who thinks of the glamorous successful rate of the F&B business. Based on the statistics over the past 10 years, slightly more than 70% of new businesses fail in the first year and about 90% of them fail in the next 3 years. That leaves us with only 1 out of 10 who are in existence after 3 years or more. One can remember that restaurants that have closed recently include Wok & Barrel, Preparazzi, Tea Cosy, One on the Bund and many more.

Budget Calculation

One of the main contribution for the high failure rate is usually due to either the underplanning of the costs or being over optimistic on the sales front.

When I talked to my ex-classmate, he mentioned that the budgeting for F&B business are usually bottom-up - which means that we need to calculate the fixed and variable costs such as rent and raw materials and work our way up to determine the sales figure. Obviously, the lower the operating costs the higher chances you are likely to be successful in your business. So let's analyze deeper the importance of each components.


Rental costs are usually the killer factor we have in Singapore. One can look at a few owned Reits malls such as CMT or FCT and you can see how they are consistently revising their rental rates to increase their DPU and value to unitholders. 

Based on Williams, Richard in his valuation journal in 2002, he mentioned that restaurant owners cannot afford to pay more than 5% to 8% of the total gross sales in rent if one is to be successful in the long term. In the Singapore context, my friend argued that it is virtually impossible to get the rent rate this low and he estimated the figure to be closer to 10% of total gross sales, unless the place warrant a premium of competitive advantage such as sea view or no competitor within the 2.5km radius, then it would make sense to add a percent or two more on top of it.

For example, the average price psf on Plaza Singapura is around $14/psf. So if you are looking to lease a small shop for your cafe at around 800 sqft, you are looking easily at around $11,200/month in rent. Taking the 10% rule, this means that you should be expecting around $112,000 in gross sales for the month or $1.34 million per annum. If you are looking to charge your customers at around $20 per customer, your breakeven point would be at  183 customers/day.

Some landlord will propose a variable component on top of the fixed rent. So you might get something like $6,000 + 5 % of sales. In this case, your rental costs are no longer fixed and have to bear in mind the variable components involved.

Food (Raw Materials)

The general rule of thumb is your costs for the food and other raw materials should never exceeds 35% or 1/3 of your overall gross sales. Price is always a sensitive factor to the consumers and not something that can be easily passed down to your consumers even if the price of your raw materials is up. To ensure that you get the cheapest deal, ensure that you have a network of vendors who are willing to work long term with you in times of good and bad economy. Having said that, it is important not to compromise cheap for quality as this will backfire in the long run.

Labor Costs

Labor costs are another difficult component to handle especially in Singapore. The labor tight crunch means that you probably need to hire foreign workers who are willing to dedicate service and the right attitude to the customers. The general rule of thumb is these costs should not exceeds 30% of your overall gross sales. Think of ways on how you can save costs by using automated service, e.g there are a few Japanese restaurants who are using IPAD for order and delivery of the food. The more you can save these costs at start, the higher likelihood you are going to succeed in your business.

Other Intangibles

These intangibles such as service, attitude, timeliness of the delivery and consistent quality of the food are key important ingredients to customer's brand loyalty. Often, many restaurants and cafes neglected on these aspects which can prove to be costly to the business in the long run. With Facebook, Tweeter and Instragam highly dominant in the modern technology of our everyday lives, the word of mouth can spread rather quickly for your business - either good or bad.

Sample P&L done by B

I am not an expert in this business but I think it is interesting to understand how the successful of an entrepreneur goes back to how prudent he is on the budgeting. As with investing, the higher the margin of safety, the higher chances you are likely to be the one standing out in times of adversity.

The next time you want to venture out opening a restaurant of cafe, ask yourself again, how well have you prepared?

Friday, July 18, 2014

IREIT Global - IPO Review

Markets seem to be bullish as there are more IPOs coming in the 2nd half of the year than the first.

Today, we look at the latest REIT IPO  - IREIT GLOBAL.

To give a little bit of some of the macro background on this IPO in case you have not read the prospectus. They are the first SGX listed office REIT with an investment mandate solely focused on Europe, with an initial 4 properties located in Germany (Bonn, Darmstadt, Munster, Munich).

Also, based on the Q1 data, it appears that the office market is in the upward trend of the accelerating phase, which makes it favorable if you are in the landlord position. Again, all this would depend back on the macro factor of the economy. The consensus believes that the recent ECB interventions - particularly its pledge to support the sovereign bond markets through the OMT facility - have effectively quashed the near term risk of the eurozone disintegrating and will pave the way for stabilisation of the eurozone over the next 5 years.

Forecasted and Projection Financial Statements

Based on the forecasted and projection income statement from FY 2014 - 2016, it appears that they are forecasting DPU CAGR growth of around 5% from 2014 to 2015 and beyond. Interest Coverage ratio stands at around 7x while DPU is at 7.6% for FY2014 and 8% for FY2015 and beyond based on 100% distribution of earnings.

What I like about the Reit?

1.) The projected yield of 8% (if projections are met)
2.) The 4 properties are freehold in nature and purchased only recently (still new)
3.) Latest market valuation of the assets are largely in line (EUR 284.1 M) with the historical purchase cost (EUR 283.1 M)
4.) Average WALE of about 7.6 years and 100% committed occupancy for all the 4 properties
4.) Committed strategic partner (owned by Mr. Tong) and include the first and second lock up period for the next 18 months
5.) Management fee structure directly linked to DPU growth (aligned with unitholder's interest) rather than asset value or NPI.

What I dislike about the Reit?

1.) EURO risk - EU breakdown still possibility with uncertainty in Portugal and Italy
2.) Forex risk - The projection yield of 8% is based on a projected forex of EUR1: SGD1.70. Note that during the 2011 Euro crisis, the rate goes as high as EUR1: SGD 1.85. If this happens, this will severely affects the DPU projection.
3.) 100% committed occupancy means there is unlikely to be further upside surprise. Projected growth is expected to come from revised rental lease.
4.) Listing price is above NAV which is at 78 cents.


For a quick comparison amongst foreign asset listed reits, we can take a look at both Ascendas Hospitality Trust (AHT) and Lippo Mall Indonesia Retail Trust (LMRIT) even though they may be in different industries. AHT was listed at 88 cents and have since gone down the hill due to unfavorable forex rate. Similarly, unitholders of LMRIT have also suffered due to unfavorable rate of the rupiah. It is never easy to have your earnings denominated in foreign currency.

I also question the need to have the reit listed in singapore. Due to favorable reits environment we have over here, we are always attracting funds raising over here. The cost of capital might also be low here which makes sense for them to pursue.

At 8% yield the projected yield may seem to interest investors while the listing at 88 cents is priced above the nav level. It remains to be seen how this would work out but i would certainly want to see how it played out before venturing in into another unchartered foreign asset territory.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why do Bronze winners ended up happier than Silver Losers?

The world cup has finally ended. GERMANY triumphed over second place Argentina by a score of 1-0 courtesy of Mario Gotze goal in extra time.

What I would like to point out here is the psychological consciousness of the 2nd and 3rd place.

As we all know, Bronze medal winners would need to lose first then win. On the other hand, Silver medal winners would need to win first then lose. So what is the difference between the two? Why would silver medal winners be more upset than bronze medal winners? A good example would be the Dutch and Argentina players when they clinched 3rd and 2nd place respectively. The Dutch are looking so happy clinching their 3rd place while Argentina players are looking like dead zombies on the street.

Based on a research, it appears that this behavioral aspect is due to the psychological comparison for silver medal losers to compare themselves against gold medal winners. Silver medal losers torment themselves with counterfactual thoughts such as "If only... that a** Higuain scores in the first half". 

On the other hand, bronze medal winners subconsciously compare themselves against 4th place losers who did not receive a medal at all.

Does this mean that we should eliminate 3rd/4th place playoff? Maybe the way Tennis and NBA ranking can be applied to soccer and other sports.

Personally for me, I have encountered such scenario myself and the feeling in entirely true if you are a loser in the final.

What about you? Do you think 3rd/4th place playoff is meaningless? Should the silver medal deserves better?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Correlation between Fulfillment and Money

On hindsight, the correlation between fulfillment and money should be positively correlated, that is the more money one earns the more fulfillment one gets. But is that really the case?

Based on a research done by Stevenson and Wolfers on the Life satisfaction metrics against Real GDP for each individual nation, we can deduce that our intuition is correct, but not absolutely. It appears that the correlation came up to about 0.70 instead of 1.0 that we imagined it to be. Why is that so?

The Fulfillment Curve

There has been many debates for a number of decades on whether money can truly buy happiness. Based on Robin, V in his book Your Money or Your Life, the fulfillment curve shows that the amount of money spent for Survival, Comforts and Luxuries does indeed improve the fulfillment of one's life. To a certain extent that the marginal benefit of spending money is less than the marginal cost, the fulfillment began to decrease substantially to the point of R.I.P. So how does this exactly work? Let's dissect each individual phase of life.

Phase 1: Survival

The Survival phase is the most important aspect of one's life. As human beings, we are at the mercy of basic needs such as oxygen, food, shelter, etc. Without them, we are unable to sustain our lives to see the very next day. Even though there are reports saying humans can live on 100 hours without having a single drop of water, we don't want to go to such extent. This is why we see that the survival phase has the steepest increase in the fulfillment curve on every unit of money spent.

Phase 2: Comforts

The Comforts phase is probably where most of us are at right now. We can afford a shelter but probably not the bungalow at Sentosa Cove. We can probably indulge in a few fine dining activities but not all the time. We can take the public transportation but not afford a car. We can travel anywhere we want by flying with budget airline but not first class or business class seat. The list goes on. If you are at this stage of your life, then money will still serve as a purpose for you as you aim for the luxury phase of life. Perhaps you want to drive a BMW one day or maybe own a condo at the town area. You work hard to meet the next phase of life.

Phase 3: Luxuries

Very few acquaintance I know are at this stage of their life. This is also the phase where the marginal benefit of spending money is at its closest to the marginal cost. This is the "ENOUGH" phase. You have all the monetary means to spend on any luxury items you fancy and money probably means nothing more than repeating the same activities or buying the same luxury goods over and over again. This is the PEAK.

Phase 4: Overconsumption

In his book, Robin called this the "Clutter" phase - the stuff beyond anything that is excess. And it is easy to see why. Let me give you a layman real life example. I had a buffet lunch with my family this afternoon at the Lime at Park Royal Hotel at Pickering. Friends who know me would know that I love to eat raw Sashimi very much. So when I grabbed my first plate of the Sashimi, there's only one word that can describe my feeling at that point in time: "Simply Awesome" (okay, it's two words, I cheated there). When I went back to grab my second plate, the feeling was still fantastic. The Sashimi was fleshy and thick and it melts in the mouth when you put in right there. When I grabbed my third plate, it tastes okay. By that time, I was already quite done with the Sashimi and wanted to try something else (After all, who eats only Sashimi throughout the buffet right!!!) The idea was that the fulfillment when I ate my third round was definitely not as fantastic as the first and second round. The same concept applies to money. To a certain extent that money is excessive, it only becomes a burden. You are worried about getting robbed. You are worried about how you should decline your relatives who approach you for money. You are worried that money cannot sustain your already high fulfillment level.

What is my Magic Number?

When I began my journey for Financial Independence (FI) back in 2011, I had some numbers in mind based on a few assumptions I made of what should be the peak. The numbers, unchanged from 4 years ago, stand currently at $1,414,705.83. This does not mean that the numbers will not change over time. If any of the assumptions I made earlier have changed, the magic figure would change accordingly. What remained the same is the Fulfillment curve that applies to everyone. My "Enough" figure might shift upwards, but the curve will not deviate from it.

Phase 5: Participation

Apparently, there is a cheat code to the curve. This final phase is called the participation - the contributing phase. This is where fulfillment is derived not from money but rather from the contributions you give back to the society. More specifically for most people, the fulfillment curve slope upwards when you help people attaining the Survival and Comforts phase, usually in poor developing countries where basic necessities such as food and water are scarce. In Singapore, there are a larger group of people who contributes to this and it is heartening to see fellow human beings helping one another in times of difficulties.

The different phases of life is something that we go through in life. They may not be the same for most people. Some of us can be stucked at the comfort phase for life and we may never experience the others. For others, they may experience all the 5 phases of life from the Survival to the Participating phase. Regardless of where you are, the curve would probably serve the same for you and me. It is now up to you to determine what you should do not only your money but also your life.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Jul 14" - SG Transactions & Portfolio Update" + Child Portfolio

No. of Lots
Market Price (SGD)
Total Value (SGD) based on market price
Allocation %
FraserCenter Point Trust
SembCorp Ind
Ascott Reit
Mapletree Greater China Commercial Trust
China Merchant Pacific
FraserCommercial Trust
First Reit
ST Engineering
Second Chance
Ascendas Hosp. Trust
Stamford Land

Total SGD


This month portfolio increase has been largely boosted by the surging for Vicom in recent weeks. It appears that investors are expecting a good result for the 2nd Quarter and a potential increase in their dividend payout. What had remained the same is probably the positive FCF they are generating quarter to quarter. But we'll see if they decide to do anything with its humongous cash they had in their asset. Multiples now stand at an all time high of 22x based on current earnings and the market had positively priced this upward.
In addition, I added more CMP and ST Engineering at $0.915 and $3.77 respectively for the month of Jul. For analysis on CMP, you may want to refer to investmentmoats for his thorough analysis on CMP for the last couple of results. My impression for CMP remains that 1.) they are well generating FCF comfortably and 2.) it appears that the management is trying to increase their payout ratio so that it will generate more interests from retail investors to increase the price beyond its convertible option exercise price. I may be wrong in my understanding here.
For the latter, I am looking at more stability and defensive stock to add on. While I do not expect them to increase their payout ratio beyond what is already high at 90+%, I think their book order for next year is stable and should give them in line at least to what they had for FY13.

Child Portfolio

No. of Lots
Market Price (SGD)
Total Value (SGD) based on market price
Allocation %
ST Engineering

In addition to my own portfolio, I've also decided to start managing my son's angbao money by investing in what I "think" will be stable for the next 20 years. I've also topped up a bit on top of what he already has.
Based on a couple of responses I received in my previous post (What should I do with the savings for my child), I've decided to go with the savings bank account option (for dividend and other angbao money) and investing (stock for now) option. The endowment plan may seems like a good option to diversify but since the amount is too small, I do not want to divide them into all the options available.
So this is it, ST Engineering - this will be entirely his and the strategy will be entirely different with what I have in my portfolio. The plan is to stay through the thick and thin for the next 20 years and I will not be surprised to see a couple of up and down along the way.

What about you? How is your portfolio doing for this month? Any shock or upside?

Startburst IPO - Results

Third time unlucky in IPO application.
To be fair, the chances were pretty slim to begin with, from around 3% to 16% based on the number of lots you applied.
From the allocation balloting, we can also see that the management is appreciating long term shareholders more than those who were bidding just to sell it off in the near term.
The stock made its debut performance today and it closes at $0.42 on its first day of trading. That's a 35% increase in the stock price and a strong debut performance from the Starburst. At $0.42, I think the upside could be somewhat limited as I projected around $0.36 to $0.40 as the fair value based on their historical earnings.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What should I do with the savings for my child?

There's been a couple of bloggers out there who have posted on what they would do to help their parents invest their money.
I've been thinking over the past few weeks on what I should do with the angpao savings my son received from families and friends during his birth and the 1st month baby shower. The savings amounted to around S$6,200 for now and the objective is to pay for his college and university school fees when he matures later.
There are a couple of choice which has been lingering on my mind. The one thing certain is he has a longer time horizon (around 20 years) and the argument is he can stomach more risky investment. Still, I am not sure if that is going to be the best option.
Option 1
I was planning to open up a junior savings account for him. My idea was to put in these sum of money on the savings account and we have the flexibility to take out as and when it might be required (sort of acting as a secondary emergency fund). However, it appears that this move may be unwise given the rate of inflation that would eat up the sum of money in 20 years time.
+ : More Flexibility, Act as a secondary emergency fund
- : Inflation
Option 2
The second option is involving endowment plan under an insurance plan. This is a rather good option which gives me the rate of return required and also higher than the normal savings account. However, I am not sure if this is the best option as first of all it doesn't give me the flexibility to either stop or withdraw the premium and secondly, I might already have something like this plan in the form of my life insurance plan (where after 15 years and I no longer want to be covered for life, I can withdraw the money and breakeven, SHOULD I really need the money)
+ : Returns are better than fd and safe from recession
- : Less flexibility
Option 3
The third option is to invest in stocks which will compound over time after 20 years. Stocks is a risky instrument in general and hence I might be looking more into defensive stocks that yield good returns over the past couple of years, proven. Stocks such as ST Engineering or Singtel are what I have in my mind.
+ : Higher returns
- : May be subject to recessions and volatility

Whay do you think? Are there any other options which might be suitable?