Talk about F&B Business, Consumer Behaviour, and Challenges during COVID-19 with Roti Eneng

Updated: May 29, 2020

Hi pals, How are you guys doing?

The sun still rises from the East and, unfortunately, the ‘Rona is still around us. We hope you are all well and fine wherever you are.

Maybe it's time we pop our dreamy little bubble and accept that this situation is not ending soon. In our best-case scenario, we will get over this within the next few months with the discovery of a vaccine. However, this is quite unlikely and may very well up to a year.

Though it feels it has been an eternity, the authorities are still fumbling on how to properly handle this situation. Doctors and nurses are overworked, hospitals are busier than ever and scientists are busy trying to find a cure, and we as a society are (still) struggling to get our heads around this fiasco.

This leads us to the question of whether you will be comfortable heading out and living life as you did once the large scale social distancing (PSBB) is raised? We highly doubt it.

Instead of just looking at the adverse effects this pandemic has had on us, it might be beneficial to focus instead on what it provides us with. This unprecedented period not only “forces” us to adapt but also allows us to explore and discover ourselves.

From hydroponics to home-workouts, baking to knitting, people are picking up new habits they never thought they would. “I wish….” statements are very quickly being turned to “I am...”.

In the second month of the PSBB policy, people not only buy basic necessities but also start buying personal care products, healthy food, to guilty-comfort food, such as dessert. Consumer behavior also tends to change with more frequent food orders online.

Hmm...I smell the scent of business opportunities from this phenomenon. Do you also smell that, pals?

Therefore, the RDPNT team tried to check by interviewing Sarah Diana Oktavia, owner of Roti Eneng. Pasar Santa’s loyal visitors circa 2014s may be already familiar with Roti Eneng.

When writing articles, I usually don't like research things because I'm a lazy person. However, this time it's a little different. The more I found out, the more I found myself craving for Roti Eneng. Before diving into this article, show some love and follow Roti Eneng on Instagram. You must be crazy if pictures of melted cheese and chocolate bread posted on their feed don’t appeal to you (LOL, JK). Don't forget to wipe that drool off your face.

The name “Roti Eneng'' itself was given by Diana's grandmother. Her family and close friends still address her with Eneng until today. Besides being homier, Eneng's call also gives a warm impression.


Want to get insights about the FnB business during COVID-19?

Check out the interview between the RDPNT team and Sarah Diana Oktavia from Roti Eneng.

About Roti Eneng

What were your expectations when you first opened Roti Eneng?

Eneng: Actually, I rented a shop in Pasar Santa to accompany my friend that opened a shop there. The second reason was that it was cheap, only 3 million for a year back in 2014. But, the problem was that I didn't know what I want to sell.

Inspired by a film which I’ve forgotten the title of, I imagined opening a small shop with a warm atmosphere, where I could cook and chat with customers who came by. That's it.

So, even with this being your first business you were able to grow it to what it is today?

Eneng: You could say so, I am not one of those who are good at selling. I learned by doing. When I first opened Roti Eneng, I didn't know anything about starting a business.

"It was a constant effort of trial error."

At the end of the day, why did you choose the F&B business?

Eneng: Simple. It has to be fun, long-lasting, and do-able. I already had a good career in a multinational agency and I didn’t want to waste my time running a business I didn’t enjoy over my precious weekends.

My mother had a small bakery at home and I loved eating toast, every day for as long as I remember. However, what will be the added value of my product? Toast is a common snack in Jakarta.

I began to narrow down on the idea of making homemade bread topped jam with no preservatives, and of course, it had to be delicious.

I enjoyed the process of having to try out 20 different jam recipes at once. I'm not a chef and felt more like a researcher in a laboratory. I took bread I baked to the office and got them tested by my friends. It was a constant effort of trial error.

What was your original concept for Roti Eneng?

Eneng: Homemade snacks that remind you of home. In our shop, you can eat those delicious toast like you’re visiting my house. I do not offer fancy food made by professional chefs, but something more like comfort food that you can eat every day.

Besides doing business, Eneng also juggles loads of different activities, from freelancing to extreme sports like climbing and diving. How do you manage to balance all this?

Eneng: I don't want to be greedy in running the Roti Eneng business. That is my main principle. We need to know when to take a break and enjoy life. Why much money, but can't enjoy life?

On the other hand, we have to continuously strive to develop ourselves personally. I'm the type of person who always needs a new challenge. I still take jobs from big brands. Not only do I learn about the problems they face, but I can also apply lessons learned to Roti Eneng.

"I don't want to be greedy in running the Roti Eneng business. That is my main principle. We need to know when to take a break and enjoy life."

F&B Business (Roti Eneng) during COVID-19 pandemic

How has your business been affected by the current pandemic?

Eneng: Surprisingly, we’ve had a very positive effect. We were a bit worried when the news of COVID-19 spread around in Indonesia and wondered if our business could survive. Since then, I began to research about our consumer behavior and made decisions based on my findings.

What behavior did you observe and what effect did it have on Roti Eneng business?

Eneng: The biggest change occurred in working moms, who now routinely work from home. Of course, they wanted to play their part at home, for example by preparing food for the family. Things that were very rarely done before.

However, if one were to cook constantly, it would soon feel like a chore and feel tiring. This motivated us to prepare premium bread with jam variants. We started pivoting from producing “roti isi” to “roti bakar” topped with various jams and iced coffee in bottle packaging. We saw an increase in sales from this bundling strategy.

Is there a new marketing strategy implemented by Roti Eneng?

Eneng: Our shop is still open but customers are not allowed to dine-in. Besides that, we also started selling our products via Instagram, WhatsApp, and Tokopedia. The existence of online food delivery services, like GoSend and Grab Send, also helped us.

In addition, we have also tried to improve customer service by replying to orders as soon as possible, even if we receive them at 1 am.

Does this bother you?

Eneng: At first I was annoyed, but then I learned to be more patient and caring with my customers. I realized that in times like this, many people often lack the social connection they need, even if it's just to chat. We created an emotional attachment between customers and Roti Eneng.

"However, the passion and love that an owner brings is something that they can never replicate."

Does the emotional attachment obtained by the customer affect the sales?

Eneng: Yes, of course. This has had a positive effect on our sales.

New entrepreneurs running online businesses are now very sophisticated. They go as far as to hire an admin who works very well and professionally in handling a customer's wants and needs. However, the passion and love that an owner brings is something that they can never replicate.

There are even customers who often chat at 1 AM, just like "Hi, I just finished eating Roti Eneng, you know. Good night, yeah!”

Have you received any complaints from buyers during this COVID-19 period?

Eneng: In terms of taste and quality, I don't think we have. Should we receive one regarding product quality, we usually send a product replacement even if the customer did not request for it.

However, I’ve had the experience of being scolded by customers. There was once a customer who felt that our employee service was not satisfactory, even though to me they were very polite in serving customers. COVID-19 situation might have made people more sensitive.

Aren’t you afraid of the risk of being infected with coronavirus by your shop open?

Eneng: Of course I am. Wherever we are, we are always vulnerable to getting infected by the virus. We must as possible avoid and prevent the transmission and one way of doing so is by practicing social distancing. I also believe that my employees practice good health hygiene.

Roti Eneng is a business that prioritizes product quality, do you have any form of safety control set in place? However, what about the safety control?

Eneng: The food we make must be well baked so it's quite safe from bacteria and viruses. We also clean work areas, spray disinfectants on product packaging, and clean glass bottles with boiling water, etc. to prevent disease transmission.

"I want Roti Eneng to be my long-lasting legacy."

The current pandemic limits movements of Roti Eneng customers, does this not make you want to open a franchise?

Eneng: My goal is not merely to make money. It would be more difficult to control the quality of the products sold were I to open another franchise.

I don't want Roti Eneng to have dozens or even hundreds of outlets and see it disappear as quickly as it came. I am even more unwilling to disappoint our customers. To me, it is better to have 1-2 outlets wherein product quality is well maintained. This will surely ensure customer loyalty.

I want Roti Eneng to be my long-lasting legacy.

Then, what is Roti Eneng's business strategy to reach customers from various regions in Jabodetabek? Especially in the current COVID-19 situation.

Eneng: This PSBB provides opportunities for people from different corners of the town to come down to our shop just to get their plain bread and jam, even though we don’t allow customers to dine-in. We’ve had customers who come all the way from Kelapa Gading and Pluit. Before COVID-19, this was almost impossible because of the traffic jams Jakarta is notoriously famous for.

After the PSBB ends, will Roti Eneng immediately open as usual?

Eneng: Looks like it will be sometime until we have dining-in as an option to our customers. The risk that entails is just not worth it.

During this COVID-19 period, many people have begun diving into F&B business. How do you respond to this? Would you like to share any tips for newcomers in the field?

Eneng: Exciting! Many family secret recipes will now be made available to the public. We as consumers will have many choices to choose from.

My advice to newcomers is to not follow current trends that are on the rise. It will be difficult to survive in the long run.

It's better to ensure mastery over the product you want to sell. Focus on your own product.

What is the future for Roti Eneng seeing that this pandemic might last for several months, and may even go on for the next 1-2 years?

Eneng: We will be running the bread factory from next month so we can supply our toasts and other products to other businesses. At present, we are still not able to fulfill the demand from our own store. We are still preparing for the safety procedure.

In this pandemic situation we always have a choice, to either play victim and blame the situation, or to adapt and act on the opportunities that come up. Tough times don't last, tough people, do.

Words : Arya Dharmaputra (@dharmaputra_arya)

Editor : Suraj Vasandani

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