How These 3 Singaporean Entrepreneurs Went From Hawkers to Running an F&B Empire

Table of Contents

Humble beginnings provide a foundation for business growth. Sometimes, a rags-to-riches story can be warming and inspiring to those of us who are still looking for a way to define our success.

Read on to see how these 3 hawkers made an empire from their humble eateries.

1. Paradise Group

Photo Source: Paradise Group

Paradise Group first started out as ‘Seafood Paradise’. The restaurant poised as a diner’s paradise for Oriental cuisine, traces its’ roots to a humble 25-seater eatery in Defu Lane.

Initially, Eldwin Chua started out with managing his grandfather’s coffeeshop operations. His duties consisted of running the drinks stall and learning how to brew coffee.

In 2002, at the age of 25 years old, Eldwin was given the chance to take over his grandfather’s coffeeshop. He took over with an assistant chef and a helper. On top of having to cook, clean and serve dishes, Eldwin was also responsible for buying groceries in the early morning.

Eventually, the 3-man operation became a popular eatery. “The Seafood Paradise Restaurant” was successful due to their luxurious and reasonably-priced menu. According to an interview in 2012, Eldwin states that their food was priced around SGD$3 to SGD$4. [restrict]

Seafood Paradise’s wine cellar at their outlet at the Singapore Flyer (Photo Source: HungryGoWhere)

The restaurant’s success prompted Eldwin to open another outlet at the iconic Singapore Flyer and also Marina Bay Sands.

From here, it was a matter of time before Seafood Paradise amassed both an international and local following, eventually becoming the restaurant empire we’ve come to love.

Today, Paradise Group boasts a global presence in 9 different countries, and 34 restaurants spread across Singapore alone.

2. Select Group Holdings

Photo Source: Select Group

From a small Chinese mixed vegetable rice stall in Bedok to a sprawling F&B conglomerate with 24 firms and a SGD$60 million headquarters facility, Select Group has an inspiring story for small business owners out there.

Mr Vincent Tan Chor Koon, founder and managing director of the company started off the business as a tingkat delivery service from his family’s hawker stall. The tingkats were generally tiffin carriers that contained prepared food.

In 1991, the business was a family-affair. It consisted of buying groceries in the morning, then preparing and delivering the tingkats in the afternoon. Customers were satisfied with the food and service quality – so much so that the business grew rapidly.

A year later, the company would open its’ first commercial kitchen in Siglap. The second and third were opened in 1993 and 1995, in Hougang and Aljuined, respectively.

Today, Select Group owns 24 companies and 160 F&B outlets. It now hires 1,800 employees and boasts an annual turnover of S$160 million.

3. Fei Siong Group SG

Photo Source: The Straits Times

The Fei Siong Group was founded in 1993 by Mr Tan Kim Siong. In tune with this article, Mr Tan’s success, similar to other success stories here, originated from a humble food stall in a hawker center.

The 85 Redhill chain of restaurants is a popular eatery find in most malls all around Singapore (Photo Source:

The chain of 85 Redhill Teochew Fishball Noodles stores originate from a single hawker stall owned by Mr Tan’s grandfather. If you were a local, you would recall the rental stall that was situated outside the former National Library on Stamford Road, decades ago.

From their modest beginnings, Fei Siong Group has continually expanded and reinvented themselves over the years.

Currently, the company boasts a hefty 150 stalls and 1176 staff under their under their belt. They are known for owning eateries and food courts in shopping malls throughout Singapore, to name a few, Tangs Market in Tangs Orchard, the EAT. chain of noodle shops, and the Malaysia Boleh! food court in Jurong Point.

Mr Tan and the Fei Siong Group are also known for their entrepreneurial initiatives: creating a hawker training programme in 2015.

The programme was so popular that the company was forced to suspend further applications. The programmes aim was to preserve local hawker food, especially among younger crowds.

Due to this effort, it is likely that the demand for hawker training will continue to grow, especially with the Government’s plans for 20 new hawker centres by 2027.

Actionable Takeaway:

Successful people tend to make it look like their success was an easy path. Don’t be fooled. Hard work and dedication are what is truly needed to achieve any sort of success.

Eldwin Chua of Paradise Group states that during his early 20’s, he only managed 4-5 hours of sleep most days. The rest of his time was dedicated towards his work. Slowly but surely, be patient with your efforts. Success will come.


The FMCG Marketer's Guide to First-party Data Collection

Share this article:

Other articles