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This ex-auditor shakes up S'pore's F&B scene with its snack chain

Cassie Zhang noticed that customers these days prefer to have customisable food. As such, she came up with a business idea allowing customers to do exactly that, but with an added fun experience of ‘shaking’ the food. 

That was what ultimately led to the establishment of her halal-certified F&B business Shake Shake In A Tub in 2019, which features an interactive finger foods concept.

Customers can choose from a variety of staple and seasonal flavours to add to their fries and popcorn chicken, and shake them up in a tub.

According to Cassie, more than S$1 million was invested to start up the business — funded by company shareholders — and it managed to break even within three years despite the pandemic.

Building the business during the pandemic

Cassie Zhang, co-founder of Shake Shake In A Tub
Cassie Zhang, co-founder of Shake Shake In A Tub / Image Credit: Shake Shake In a Tub

Cassie — who has a Masters in banking and finance as well as professional accountancy — used to work as an auditor before starting Shake Shake In A Tub as her first business venture. 

With no prior F&B experience, she had to learn on the go and faced several challenges along the way, especially since they were building up the business during the height of the pandemic. 

The first of many problems that arose due to the pandemic was the effect of COVID restrictions on the business. Shake Shake In A Tub decided to adopt new strategies such as onboarding itself on delivery platforms in May 2020 during the lockdown period, but that itself came with concerns. 

[T]he commission of the delivery platform was also another factor that reduced our profit significantly. As we are a fast food chain business, [the] margin is very thin. Moreover, with the impact COVID had globally, it resulted in the dramatic increase in costs, which narrowed our margin further.

– Cassie Zhang, co-founder of Shake Shake In A Tub

Other problems revolved around addressing rental costs and manpower issues, and these couldn’t have come at a worse timing considering how they were in the midst of opening other outlets in Singapore. 

This is because manpower issues were not just a concern for Shake Shake In A Tub, but also for their contractors, which led to delays in the opening of their outlets.

Cassie recalls how badly the business was impacted during the pandemic. “The market was bad, and some of our neighbour F&B brands literally walked over to our outlet and tried to poach our staff”, she said, adding that she often found herself overworking as she had to go down to several outlets every day to help out.  

However, Shake Shake In A Tub managed to pull through these tough times by introducing a variety of staff welfare schemes to build up a strong and loyal operations team. The management also made an effort to visit the outlets frequently to motivate the staff and gather their feedback. 

Cassie believes this was a necessary step to take as she feels that having a strong, united and well-cared for team was the key to help Shake Shake In A Tub weather storms like this.

It takes up to six months to come up with a new flavour

Shake Shake In A Tub
Shake Shake In A Tub fries / Image Credit: Shake Shake In A Tub

Shake Shake In A Tub managed to sustain its business with regular creations of different seasonal flavours like curry and laksa, and it takes the team at least three to six months to come up with these flavours.

It also conducts market research and surveys that led to the creation of other flavours such as Butter Corn and Seaweed.

“We have an R&D team that will come up with new products and ideas. They will then go through rounds of tastings with the management for feedback and fine-tuning before launching”, says Cassie.

With their flavours winning the hearts of their customers, Shake Shake In A Tub seems to be on the right track. However, Cassie notes that much more effort is required behind the scenes in order for these flavours to reach the masses. 

As we were a new brand, we needed to spend a lot on marketing efforts to increase public awareness. We also had to back up our central kitchen and R&D team, hence the overhead was also a big challenge.

– Cassie Zhang, co-founder of Shake Shake In A Tub

She adds that  they are always on the lookout for potential collaborations with relevant brands and products. When the right opportunity comes along, Shake Shake In A Tub is quick to grasp the opportunity and make full use of it to further grow its reach. 

Ultimately, Cassie always ensures that Shake Shake In A Tub first fulfils its fundamental goals — quality food and quality customer experience. To achieve this, Shake Shake In A Tub uses their own in-house chicken sauce that has no added preservatives, MSG or colouring.

Shake Shake In A Tub staff
Shake Shake In A Tub’s staff / Image Credit: Shake Shake In A Tub

Incentives are also put in place to encourage staff to deliver quality customer service. From having “Star of the month” awards to providing staff enhanced insurance, Shake Shake In A Tub has been awarded the Work-life Harmony certificate by Tripartite Standards.

Expanding globally

This year, to celebrate Shake Shake In A Tub’s third birthday, two new mainstays — the Shake Shake Cheeky Chicken Burger that is available exclusively at their recently-opened 111 Somerset Flagship Café, and the Shake It Up! Potato Balls — were launched. 

Shake Shake Cheeky Chicken Burger
Shake Shake Cheeky Chicken Burger / Image credit: Shake Shake In A Tub

Additionally, they also released a seasonal item that will be available until the end of the month in collaboration with Dancing Chef called the Dancing Hot Korean Spicy Chicken featuring Shake Shake’s chicken coated with Dancing Chef’s new Korean spicy chicken sauce. 

Currently, Shake Shake In A Tub has nine outlets in Singapore.

“We have also just started our franchise model in Indonesia”, Cassie mentions, adding that 90 franchisee outlets have been opened there. The goal is to shape Shake Shake In A Tub into a global brand with a franchise model.

“It is our aim to bring this Singaporean brand to all parts of the world”, says Cassie, who believes that Shake Shake In A Tub can achieve that, because despite tasty and delicious snacks being at the forefront of any F&B company today, being fun is very much the name of the game for them.

Featured Image Credit: Shake Shake In A Tub

Also read: This 3rd-gen seafood restaurant started as a hawker stall – now featured on Michelin, Netflix