The food and beverage industry is a tough industry, and Denis Rawlins had his start from humble beginnings. He started making sausages with his father at home, which soon began to create a buzz as friends and relatives who liked what they sampled suggested that he could make a business out of it—this was Denis Rawlins’ first foray into the business.
Today, he has his hands in the restaurant business with the multi-identity Jarrod & Rawlins (restaurant, pub and sometimes a deli), the non-halal meat processing factory Rawlins Foods and a halal counterpart, Victoria Crest.
Incepted in 2010, Victoria Crest joins the market with little competition: they supply premium, English-style halal meat products such as sausages, burger patties and pies to restaurants and retail—and now, they are planning to expand into the foodservice business. The potential is huge according to Rawlins, and could get even better once they receive their export license.
As with all ventures, the startup wasn’t easy. “The first challenge was financing because we were trying to get grants, which we got none, so we had to personally finance it.” The red tape in government departments did not help their situation at all, and staffing had also been a problem, although he admits that today they are more stable with a good mix of local and foreign staff. Despite that, Rawlins and his business partners took on the challenges and strived. “It’s a challenging industry to be in,” he confirmed.
“I’ve enjoyed creating a brand—I’ve enjoyed creating all the brands, actually,” he said as he mused on his favourite aspects of his job: creating the products, menus and the dishes, and of course the inevitable food tasting that comes with it. “You meet nice people. Not a lot of them are easy customers but generally our clients are really decent—you get a lot of good friends.”
So how different is it to manage a restaurant and a factory?
“Really different. For a start the hours are completely different,” he explained, with production in a factory being normal working hours while the in a restaurant it’s much more social. Customer service in a restaurant is immediate and interactive, whereas you don’t see the clients of a factory as much, such as the supermarkets and restaurants.
Rawlins summarises the crucial points for making it in the industry: “Be prepared for very long hours and a lot of HR issues, staffing in Malaysia is not easy, budget much more funds than you think you’re going to need, don’t rely on any sort of grants. Just be prepared to work.
“When I first started my pork factory I was doing everything—I was designing my packaging, delivering, producing, marketing (the products). It was crazy, I was sleeping four hours a night, and it was hard. That’s what it is when you first start.”
The hard work is certainly paying off, and they are now looking for more licenses for Jarrod & Rawlins in Malaysia and possibly overseas; the Ampang outlet may also see some changes in terms of concept—Rawlins preferred to keep the plans under wraps first, but there is little doubt that it is going to be something that the diners will be pleased with.