Why do some cafes succeed and why do they fail?

VCR remains one of the top brand names in third wave coffee culture for the local Malaysian market today. With several new off-shoots occuring from it’s primary cafes, into bakeries and sandwich bars, the business is growing gradually from strength to strength.

This is especially astonishing as the f&b industry in 2020 has taken a ferocious hit with business in general dropping by a tremendous 90% to some actually shutting their doors for good.

Start with a long term vision

Andrew Lee is the founding leader of a group of incredible partners that are cohesive and united in mindset of achieving the ultimate goal of creating a lifestyle brand from scratch. His recognition that instagram-ability of the cafe setting alongside excellent service and food/coffee would be a solid foundation to build the brand.

Strategise & Collaborate

We were surprised that Andrew keeps using the word ‘collaborate’ when we were designing the cafe. This was rather humbling as most of the time, architectural and interior designers in Malaysia tend to just bow to the whim of the owners or simply copy and cut/paste other ideas from the internet. With a set vision and direction, Andrew helped us become extremely cohesive with a design direction, aligned with his vision. Brain storming sessions were frequent, and fun. Having travelled around the world to scandinavia, japan and also his time studying in San Francisco, Andrew had a strategic palate that was soon to be a potent platform for us to explore designs and implement potential ideas.

Keep to principles

After several weeks studying potential designs from sketches and the vision that we have agreed to embark on, it was a matter of keeping faith to the principles. Sometimes, that is all that is necessary rather than being influenced by external preference and nuances. VCR pointed to a through and through experience of genuine quality and to embody that, a rich steel and wood industrial notion was created at each situation of the design. Andrew was constrantly pushing us to do more and achieve a revolutionary outcome that almost virtualised the physical experience of the cafe through instagram-ability of various elements and angles of the cafe. This resulted in many intricate and rigorously thought out components from the bespoke cable tray to the custom made stools and planters that have resulted in thousands of postings from patrons, creating a relentless flow of publicity using their location tag on instagram and their accounts/hashtags.



During the current plight of the pandemic, cafe and f&b owners are facing tremendous challenges from multiple angles and directions. The road and journey is uncertain indeed. Nevertheless, we hope that the above steps will be helpful in weathering the storm and coming out of this tragic times being much more resilient and strong in long term positioning, hopefully not only locally but beyond our local market. It seems to us that this is a time where the playing field could be leveled through this need to rapidly transition.