Just before the MCO was first announced, Langkawi Chantique, a boutique hotel on the island of Langkawi, was already facing some trouble.
By then, they were left with 5 employees, excluding Azureen and Nani, her mother, themselves. The mother-daughter duo ran the hotel full-time.
Once the MCO was announced, they decided to close the hotel once their last set of guests left the property.
After letting go of their trainee, they were left with 4 staff who’d been working with Nani for 7 years.
It was tough to let go of them too, but it had to be done as not even the government subsidy was helping.
Then during RMCO, Azureen and Nani moved into Langkawi Chantique to cut their cost of living expenses.
On July 4, they closed it and it hasn’t been opened as a hotel since.
It was a rough time. And it seemed like it was only going to get rougher.
Competing With The Big Boys
During the RMCO, 4 to 5-star hotels had decreased their prices by 50-70%.
This large drop made it harder for smaller hotels to sustain themselves. Competition was just too great, and Langkawi Chantique couldn’t afford to sell its rooms at such a low rate.
“No one would pay RM200 to stay at Langkawi Chantique when you can stay at a 5-star hotel for RM300 with a beach-front view,” Azureen said.
So, they had to change the concept of their property. They began renting out the rooms to foreigners who didn’t want to go back to their home country, and to those able to WFH.
The rooms were priced from RM1,000 to RM2,500 per month with a RM1,000 security deposit. A guest would get full use of all facilities, and the price covered utility bills.
“I’m proud to say we were the first in Langkawi to change our business model from hotel to room rentals,” Azureen told Vulcan Post.
“Our main target was to make enough to cover our utilities and maintenance of the property, like the pool, garden, rooms, etc.,” she added.
They used Instagram and Facebook to advertise their room rentals, and two well-known Facebook groups in Langkawi, Langkawi Sana Sini and Langkawi Love Tribe were helpful in spreading the word.
However, it has not been a profit-generating business, as 8-year-old Langkawi Chantique requires more frequent maintenance.
A New Business Venture
A month after running room rentals, Azureen and Nani thought up something that would generate personal income to help them survive this year.
While Nani isn’t a certified culinary chef, she was a chef in a Malaysian restaurant in Berlin, and a housewife prior to that, which meant she’d often cook for her family.
One of her children’s favourite dishes since childhood was her nasi lemak from a personal recipe passed down by her own mother.
With this, starting a nasi lemak business seemed like a no-brainer.
Thankfully, Azureen and Nani weren’t alone in this new venture, as some family members, who were stranded on the island during a holiday before the MCO, decided to stay on and help out.
“We started running Chantique Nasi Lemak 3 days a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But now after seeing the demand from customers in KL, we decided to open on the weekends (including Fridays),” Azureen said.
“We also decided to put up the chairs and tables to allow dine-ins and roadside exposure/awareness.”
Chantique Nasi Lemak also opens only from 5PM to 8PM in order to avoid impeding the sales of other locals who sell nasi lemak in the morning.
The price per plate ranges from RM5 to RM15, and the duo aim for 70-100 plates per day. Some weekends, they’ve gotten lucky when individuals pre-ordered 100 packs.
Glimmers Of Hope In A Time Of Uncertainty
The nasi lemak business is growing and expanding its additional dishes menu.
From only offering beef rendang, sambal sotong and ayam goreng, they’ve since added sambal udang, rendang ayam, kacang buncis, and paru belado.
They’ve also introduced their homemade Ice Cream Malaysia, made by the currently homeschooled kids of friends and family on the island.
“If Chantique Nasi Lemak becomes a big hit in Langkawi, we would love to carry on and make it a permanent café within Langkawi Chantique,” Azureen said.
“Originally, we wanted to open up Langkawi Chantique next year, but we still don’t have the confidence—at least not until the border opens up.”
Times are still uncertain, and she couldn’t say how long they plan to carry on like this.
But as things have been running quite well, Azureen and Nani see no rush and are looking at maintaining the room rentals and nasi lemak business first.
Featured Image Credit: Azureen and Nani, owners of Langkawi Chantique and Chantique Nasi Lemak