Staying agile to meet new challenges

Staying agile to meet new challenges

Mr Garry Lam, General Manager of Seoul Garden Group Pte Ltd, shares about the digitalisation journey that the restaurant chain has embarked on.

By SMEs Go Digital

Thanks to the e-procurement platform EzyProcure, the Seoul Garden Group now enjoys savings on man-hours, elimination of costly errors and ease of remote working in the age of Covid-19.

It was meant to be a three-year digitalisation plan, but things had to speed up, no thanks to Covid-19.

Mr Garry Lam

General Manager of Seoul Garden Group Pte Ltd

In an effort to overhaul and improve processes, a series of over 20 systems and solutions are now to be implemented in less than a year. One in particular, which has brought much relief to employees from outlets to the administration office, is EzyProcure, a B2B e-procurement platform of food & beverage products supported under Grow Digital, an initiative of IMDA and ESG.

Since the Seoul Garden Group falls under the Food Services sector, their adoption of EzyProcure is also supported by IMDA’s Digital Resilience Bonus (DRB). They have also launched their own delivery site using a business process solution.

A world of difference

Developed by local company SGeBiz, EzyProcure has dramatically simplified the supplier management process across Seoul Garden Group’s 13 restaurant outlets in Singapore since its implementation in March 2020.

From order creation and acknowledgement of receipt to invoice reconciliation and payment, everything can be done electronically on the same platform between the group and its major suppliers. The fully digital process extends to invoicing, as the platform will enable Seoul Garden Group to transact easily with suppliers on the Nationwide E-invoicing Network.

EzyProcure has simplified the supplier management process across Seoul Garden Group’s 13 restaurant outlets in Singapore.

“It’s accurate and efficient. We are so much more productive now. And importantly with EzyProcure, we took away human error, which had cost us a lot of money and time,” says Mr Lam, who first heard of the solution from a fellow member of the Restaurant Association of Singapore. He estimates that the team has saved up to 70 per cent in man hours, which translates to a 30 per cent reduction in operating expenses.

Plus, there’s about a 30 per cent decrease in manpower needed for procurement processes. As a result, restaurant staff can focus more on customer service while colleagues in the office can redirect their energies to the bigger picture like data analysis and cost management.

This was a stark contrast to before. From managing over a hundred suppliers daily to ensuring they get the best products at the right price while trying to limit the number of mistakes on both sides of the deal, the procurement process for a restaurant chain can be a complex affair—it’s near impossible to get everything right.

For one, the finance department had to reconcile accounts and manually enter data from hard copy invoices. “I lose count of the number [of papers], but can you imagine how messy it gets?” Mr Lam lamented at the thought of large folders of hardcopy documents in the office.

Pricing disputes, which used to be a bugbear, are now also solved with EzyProcure as suppliers update their price lists and stock levels using the platform, ensuring full transparency and accuracy.

What’s more, the centralised platform easily reveals any abnormal spending, tracks inventory levels and ensures accountability—it shows who does the ordering, sign-off and goods receiving.

Doing business in the age of Covid-19

The cloud-based solution has been exceptionally useful for employees on the accounts team who work from home, as they can easily access the platform, which is available in both App and Web versions. Employees across the accounts department and restaurants have so far been able get comfortable with the application within two weeks.

“Can you imagine if we didn’t have this [during the Circuit Breaker]?” says Mr Lam, who is now in discussion with SGeBiz to launch the solution with the group’s 75 restaurants in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. Of these, 18 outlets are fully owned by the group while others are joint ventures with franchisees.

Going digital has helped Seoul Garden to attract trainees and deal with manpower shortages, helping them to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 situation.

The company also has plans to venture into Mainland China in the next two to three years.

Currently, Seoul Garden Group’s overseas restaurants procure their supplies from both Singapore and domestic markets.

With EzyProcure, payments can be easily made using Visa or Mastercard, which automatically makes adjustments for currency fluctuations. The platform can also be set to regional languages such as Thai, Bahasa Indonesia and Chinese.

Even before EzyProcure, Seoul Garden Group had already made great strides in adopting other digital solutions. For some time now, the group has been using Food Icon’s Wi-Serve Paging Products to easily alert customers that their orders are ready. With additional support from Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the group is also starting to develop their digital marketing capabilities.

Among other solutions the group intended to roll out before the end of 2020 include a contactless artificial intelligence-enabled system at their restaurants for customers to facilitate contact tracing, an enhanced digital table system and systems for managing franchisees, food safety and waste.

With these, we reduce man hours which translates into cost savings. We can also redeploy staff for value-added duties. As a company, we are now undergoing job redesign and enhancement.

Mr Garry Lam

General Manager of Seoul Garden Group Pte Ltd

A new business idea that started brewing during the COVID-19 pandemic is also in the pipeline, he divulges. The company is working on cloud kitchen outlets paired with food delivery service. “This is still a work in progress. It’s part of our business transformation plan. It’s very important to be agile,” he says.

While the importance of digitalising has always been recognised, most restaurateurs were too busy with everyday operations to dive into it. But the virus outbreak gave everyone a shake-up.

“We are now in a digital world and this is something we have to take on to emerge stronger,” says Mr Lam.

He adds, “Manpower shortage has always been an issue in the food services sector in Singapore.“

Digitalisation is a way for us to attract more trainees, professionals doing a mid-career switch, mature workers and persons with disabilities who are part of our workforce. This is how we can recover fast.

Mr Garry Lam

General Manager of Seoul Garden Group Pte Ltd

About SMEs Go Digital

The SMEs Go Digital programme is designed to make going digital simple for SMEs.

Under the programme, SMEs can gain access to a number of pre-approved digital solutions to take their businesses to the next level. There are pre-approved solutions for a range of sectors, including environmental services, food services, retail, security, wholesale trade and logistics. SMEs that adopt these solutions can receive funding support from the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG).

Launched on 22 Jun 2020, the new Grow Digital initiative also helps SMEs to participate in Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) e-commerce platforms with regional or global reach. These enable SMEs to sell overseas in spite of travel restrictions due to COVID-19.

Another new initiative under SMEs Go Digital is the Digital Resilience Bonus, targeting Food Services and Retail enterprises as a start. Eligible enterprises can receive automatic one-time cash payouts of up to $10,000 when they register for PayNow Corporate and the Nationwide E-invoicing Network, as well as use qualified solutions that improve their business processes, enable them to reach out to customers online, and help them make data-driven business decisions for better outcomes.

Visit the SMEs Go Digital programme webpage for more information today. Subscribe to the SMEs Go Digital Telegram channel at for updates on new resources and support available.

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