How chicken rice and coffee saved Mark Lee’s business

Mark Lee strikes gold with business loss; winds up his crepe business to sell chicken rice and coffee instead


Photos: Joanna Goh
Video: Goh Wen Kai

How did funnyman Mark Lee go from selling crepes to chicken rice and coffee? It wasn’t an easy decision but after investing a six-figure sum in his crepe shop at Kallang Wave Mall for the past three months, the comedian decided to cut his losses and transform his business.

Business was so dismal, the most they ever made in a day was S$600 – and the least, he tells us, was a mere S$60. With four workers on the payroll, electricity and water bills and rent to cover, Mark had no choice but to change his business strategy.

“It was our last resort – and my partner Dion [Soh] agreed as well. If not, we would have to wind up our [crepe] business after six months of operations,” he shared in an interview with Toggle at his new store.

On average, they made about S$500 a day and S$15,000 a month. But that was not enough to cover the costs of running the business and they had to top up the accounts with S$20,000 each month, adding on to the money drain. They ultimately decided to transform their F&B business into a chicken rice and coffee eatery and have since invested about S$250,000 and S$280,000 in total. 

Thus, marking the birth of his new F&B baby: 13 Stages, which sells seven different types of steamed chicken rice dishes and 13 types of coffee from the 13 states in Malaysia.

Crepes are still offered on the menu at 13 Stages - served with a local twist, coming in flavours such as pork floss, peanut butter and butter and sugar.

WATCH: We check out Mark's newest business venture -- 13 Stages

“We realised that Singaporeans are less receptive towards having a ‘wrap’ as a meal. They prefer something heartier, like rice dishes. But strangely enough, ever since we started selling chicken rice and coffee, we’ve been getting more crepe orders too. People have that as an after-meal dessert now,” he remarked.

It was serendipitous everything worked out, plus response towards 13 Stages during its first four-weeks of operations has been positive too.

“The happiest thing this month is we don’t need to take money out of our own pockets to keep the books in the black,” chuckled Mark, who’s hoping to “break even in nine months to a year’s time” and push out new dishes and open a second outlet.

(Continued on next page: How does Mark split his time between his businesses, entertainment projects and family?)

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