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How The Founders Of Boufe Cafe Convinced S'poreans To Travel To Their 'Ulu' Eatery

A quick search for the name “Boufe” will probably bring you headlines like this:

And also eye-teasing videos like this:

Even if you didn’t know anything aboutBoufe, you can already guess what they are famous for.

Their eye-catching, oh-so-Instagrammable galaxy cakes.

And it’s not just their galaxy cakes that are popular. It’s the little “twist” on the cake that makes it irresistible to many who travel all the way to Phoenix Park. Instead of merely presenting the cake to you, like what many cafes would do,Boufehas reinvented the cake by giving theircustomersan opportunity of a lifetime to craft their own galaxies.

By giving the “topping” to their customers, Boufe creates an immersive and inclusive experience. And of course, every customer there wants to “do it for the gram”, with their unique #CreatingCosmos hashtag.

Which explains every post you see on the Boufe’s location tag on Instagram.

The thing is – Boufe ISN’T just popular for their galaxy cakes. Because if it was, we could simply conclude they got lucky.

Instead, the galaxy cake is merely one in a string of food concepts Boufe has created that has attracted the attention of both regular consumers and influencers with thousands of followers. I mean, look at her genuine delight at her twilight drink:

Or their (much imitated) unicorn cakes:

Or even their ‘jiggly bunny cake’:

These impressive food concepts have given them “free” advertising across social media, drastically reducing their marketing costs and tempting many to visit a location once unknown to many.

Boufe has managed to replicate creativity in ways that gets their customers talking about them all the time.

How do they do it?

Curious to know, I reached out to Sean, the founder of Boufe to learn more about their process.

And this is what I’ve learnt.

Can Success At DotA Translate To Success At Running A Cafe?

“Hey, why don’t we open a cafe together? We have great teamwork when we’re playing DotA, so that should also mean we can do well in business together.”

Call it naivete, or “ready fire aim”, Boufe (boutique + cafe) was started almost on a whim by 3 long-time friends, Sean, Dennis and Eric. They had known each other since secondary school and had become fast friends because of their mutual interest:

DotA.

One day, while having supper and a heart-to-heart talk, one of them suggested starting a cafe together. Instead of laughing it off as a joke to be forgotten the next day, the other two said “why not?”

And thus began their journey. The fact that the trio did not have a single experience in F&B did not stop them. They went from ideation to launch in such a short span of time thatElon Muskwould have been proud of them.

While the name Boufe may seem frivolous to many (considering how the name was created), Sean told me it was actually a strategic move. The trio wanted a name that would stick in customers’ minds, and was easy to search for on Google (like the distinctive ‘v’ in Chvrches).

Boufe was the perfect name.

Settling on Phoenix Park as the location of their cafe after being rejected from their first choice, they were ready to launch.

Except that they would suffer from their own location choice.

With their poor location, Sean had to get creative. Day after day, they wrestled with the question: “How can I tempt my customers to pay for a Uber ride and come all the way to Phoenix Park to eat at my cafe?”

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Boufe’s marketing manager, Rachell is a savvy woman.

Her job, besides creating beautiful images to make Boufe irresistible, is to research and identify trends Boufe can ride on to generate more hype.

And it was through her analysis that she discovered the idea of “interactions”.

These “interactions” were little actions that if embedded into the dining process, will compel customers to post about it on social media. However, these actions cannot be too much for them to handle. It must be a “micro-step”, something the customer doesn’t mind doing and adds to the enjoyment of eating.

It is akin to the onboarding process of an app. Ask for too much, and the customers will leave. You have to add baby steps, so customers become committed to the process.

And what Rachell discovered was four different “interactions” that will create this kind of phenomenon.

They are:

1. Poking

2. Oozing

3. Pouring

4. Mixing

Taking their own observations in action, they created their very own “galaxy cake experience”. Instead of merely serving the cake, they decided to give the customer a chance to “create” their own cakes by giving them the topping to pour (“pouring” action.)

The results were tremendous.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at their Instagram. Hundreds of Instagram videos of customers creating their own galaxy cakes.

All without prompting by any of their staff.

This concept also created “news” – food bloggers flocked to the place to talk about the galaxy cakes.

Boufe didn’t stop there.

The twilight drink was another invention they created. Instead of a normal drink, they decided to integrate an action. By pouring a secondary concoction into the drink, the drink would change colour.

That, too prompted customers to share it on social media, enticing people to travel all the way to Phoenix Park just for the experience.

Boufe Is Expanding, But Not In The Conventional Way

While most F&B businesses would think of expanding to a second location after the success of their first outlet, Sean has other ideas.

Instead of recreating the Phoenix Park experience elsewhere (where it may be impossible), he has decided to expand to ecommerce.

Boufe is now selling their cakes online, and ships all over Singapore.

When I ask him about his future plans for Boufe, Sean simply says:

It is a admirable goal, and I love how he has laid it out so precisely. Sean knows what he wants.

With these unique creations coming out of Boufe’s kitchen, I have no doubt he is close.

This article was written by Si Quan Ong, and first appeared on CandyBar.co.

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