From the East to the East End: An inspiring journey of growth.
Alex and Saiphin Moore’s journey of setting up Rosa’s Thai Café is a unique menu of creativity, determination, working together, challenges, extraordinary margin optimisation, travel, great people, happiness and tears of joy. And of course, their world renowned Thai food. Join us on a journey from the East to the East End.
Couplepreneur – Alex and Saiphin Moore
Business Established – 2006
Website – www.rosasthaicafe.com
Industry – Hospitality
“Will you marry me?” Alex asked Saiphin on the first night he met her. Saiphin had already won Alex over and little did they know, they were about to embark on a huge adventure together in both life and business…
In 2006 Saiphin and Alex moved to London from Hong Kong. Alex was working in web communications and Saiphin started catering to local offices, serving outstanding Thai cuisine that she prepared in their little flat. Her food was a hit, offering something different to other cuisine on offer and as they wandered down London’s Brick Lane one day, they realised this was where they would open their first market stall.
Their food grew in popularity and was in great demand. Soon they had three market stalls, with Alex cycling back and forth from their flat with freshly prepared food from the kitchen. It was here that a lot of signature dishes were created that still feature on Rosa’s menu and in their best selling book.
Saiphin told us “We still have customers that sat at Rosa’s Spitalfields where we first had our market stall 13 years ago.”
In a nutshell…or rather a spring roll!
Saiphin tells us “We eventually found a shop location for a Thai restaurant, one of the first amongst all the Indian Curry houses on Brick Lane. We developed a business proposal and served the owners the best spring roll they had ever tasted. There was serious competition for the space, but they chose us!”
At this point they had been in the UK for two years, had no borrowings and used the cash they generated to grow the business. The restaurant had been open for only a year when they opened another restaurant with money from their house sale in Hong Kong. They had identified a gap in the market for a trendy Thai restaurant providing quick and delicious food. It felt exciting and somewhat unstoppable.
“Rosa’s creates an environment of happiness and delicious food, sending people home happy, while building a great working environment.”The Rosa's Philosophy
The plan for Rosa’s was to create a lifestyle
business; providing regular income and spreading happiness through Saiphin’s food. The business model was successful. Their Spitalfields landlord was sold on the concept and invested, as did friends and family, which allowed for the set up of a third location.
At this point they were approached by an investor who offered to help them expand their growth plan – with a promise to help them fix some of the operational challenges they were facing at the time.
They went on to raise a further £500k through professional Angel investors to grow the business whilst still ensuring they held on to the majority share which, along with profits from the business and some bank debt, eventually helped them fund a further 4 sites.
Alex told us “It was very important to us as couplepreneurs that we always held the majority share and at 7 locations we decided that we would open another 3 because we knew we could do it.”
A huge and vital contributing factor to the growth of the business was the staff. Every 6 months they would go to a retreat and encourage all the staff to input. Saiphin told us “We also offered a share option scheme to the head chef and managers at each of the locations who were there for the long term. We ensured everyone knew our targets so we all had the same goal.”
The Path Changes…
In 2017, Saiphin still managed the cooking and ingredient buying herself. They were averaging an 82% margin on food with very little waste and at 13 restaurants, the company was growing quickly and a lot to manage.
They decided it was time to sell, handing the reigns to their management team while they both still loved what they do. They negotiated a buy out with the private equity group TriSpan. They had several new locations in the pipeline, some of which they incorporated into the valuation of the business, demonstrating the true value of a business isn’t just historical success, but future earnings potential. Having just launched their first (and 16th restaurant in total) location outside of London in Liverpool, they aptly demonstrated opportunity for further growth. They ensured a seamless transition, with Saiphin continuing to work 2 days a week during the transition. Alex remains a director of the company.
How did they feel after the sale?
Whilst it was hard letting go of the business they’d built together, Saiphin knew it was the right time. Alex also expressed just how happy they both felt to share this with so many of their key colleagues who had been with them for so much of the journey. He told us “Over a 2 day period just before we sold, we got our 21 option holder colleagues together in the back garden for some noodles. It was a lovely couple of days, we had down played the sale of the business and as they opened their letters many of them cried looking at the positive share value they had received. It was such a happy moment with everyone reflecting on what we had achieved together!”
What advice would they give an aspiring couple yet to go into business together?
For Alex and Saiphin, their complimentary skillsets and job separation meant that they weren’t on top of each other on a day to day basis. Alex managed the logistics, finance and office administration whilst Saiphin looked after the front and back of house, recruitment and creating menus. They trusted in each other’s expertise in specific areas and communicated constantly. That deep trust, understanding, reliability and communication meant they were stronger together. A theme that we see with successful Couplepreneurs!
The last 18 years of being together and the sale of their business has been an amazing journey and it hasn’t put them off working with each other again, though Alex believes that working with your other half should have a shelf life. There should be a beginning, a middle and an end and that right now, him and Saiphin are happily in the middle, looking forward to more exciting ventures together as Couplepreneurs. He added “you need a higher purpose than money when setting up a business.”
“We never really talked about work at home. We kept personal life and business totally separate otherwise you turn your house into the business, which we believe isn’t healthy for a relationship.”Alex Moore
Saiphin and Alex are investing in new businesses and there is no stopping them. They are taking their experience and the relationship they have developed with Rosa’s investors TriSpan and are setting up a new joint venture with them – a noodle business named Hoh Sek Noodles.
Alex and Saiphin are looking forward to more adventures in business together and in building more happy and successful futures for others. We look forward to following them on their continued adventure together.