Ben Yeo opens 5th eatery in 2 years, says it's 'business as usual' for him even if recession happens

Busy, busy.

Lee Wei Lin | Hayley Foong | November 18, 2022, 07:52 PM

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Mediacorp actor Ben Yeo is no stranger to the F&B industry.

In the past two years, the 44-year-old has opened eateries SG Umami, Charcoal Fish Head Steamboat Restaurant, Geonbae Lok Lok and a beer garden -- all of which are located in Playground Kallang at Kallang Place. He recently opened his fifth, mod-Chinese restaurant Tan Xiang Yuan.

He also owns online businesses SG Chee Cheong Fun and SG Mao Shan Wang.

Housed in heritage building

Tan Xiang Yuan is located in a heritage building at 1 Dickson Road. Yeo told Mothership that the 120-seater cost him and his four business partners about S$1 million to set up, with majority of it stemming from renovation costs.

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A post shared by Cao Yong (@chefcaoyong)

Photo by Russell Ang

According to Yeo, renovating the heritage building was "not easy" as there were many limitations to what they could do.

Even then, they decided on the location as Yeo and his partners had spent about a year looking for a suitable spot.

Although there are signs that the global economy is slowing down, Yeo remains optimistic about their prospects.

He explained, "It's business as usual even if a recession happens. What's important is for the team to manage risk levels and keep it as low as possible."

The entrepreneur added that he finds "no purpose" in worrying about the worst possible outcomes, and instead focuses his effort on identifying ways for them to improve on their business model, and working to resolve potential issues.

What's on the menu

Some of the offerings at Tan Xiang Yuan:

TXY Signature Seafood Hotpot (S$98 or S$188)

Photo by Lee Wei Lin

TXY Angelica Black Pepper Crab (S$10.80 per 100g, minimum order 1kg)

TXY Hand Drizzled Roast Chicken (S$26 for half a chicken, S$48 for a whole chicken)

Photo by Lee Wei Lin

TXY Mao Shan Wang Durian Chilli Crab Ball (S$12/pax)

Photo by Lee Wei Lin

His take on celebs-turned-F&B bosses

Yeo is not the first local celebrity to have dipped his toes into F&B.

However, he observed that there have been some who have been unable to sustain their respective businesses.

Many of them shuttered for good "due to issues like high rental and lack of manpower".

"It seems like a curse of sorts," Yeo said, "There have been a number of artistes who invested money into these types of businesses and many of them failed."

Yeo believes he will not go down that path.

"For one, I'm familiar with the business I'm in," the SHATEC alum shared.

He also has "very good partners", including experienced chefs Cao Yong and Lim You Chai, in his five-man dream team.

A challenging industry

Yeo recognises that managing a business in the current climate is "very challenging".

Like many other F&B owners, Yeo also faces issues like high rental costs and a manpower crunch.

While these worries affect his businesses across the board, he handles the pressure by "not stressing about things that are beyond [his] control and approaching everything rationally".  

Apart from business partners, he also credits his family for being his pillar of support.

What lies ahead

Yeo mentioned the possibility of selling their soup bases online for Chinese New Year.

"We focus our businesses according to our customers' wants and needs," he sad.

In the meantime, he has hinted at an upcoming launch of a new product launch under SG Chee Cheong Fun.

What a busy man.

Tan Xiang Yuan

Address: 1 Dickson Rd, Singapore 209493

Opening hours: 11am - 11pm, Tuesdays to Sundays

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Top images by Russell Ang & Lee Wei Lin