Established in 2008, Lao Huo Tang started as a food stall at Chinatown Complex. Fast forward to the present, the brand is one of the largest restaurant groups selling their Cantonese-style soups
A true rags-to-riches story, Shen Xi moved to Singapore from Hong Kong and set up a stall selling the Cantonese soups he loved. His bowls of piping hot soup were brewed from fresh vegetables and lean meat without using oil, cream or butter; their complex flavours were a natural result of the ingredients and cooking methods. Not only were they tasty, the soups also offered various health benefits such as appetite improvement and detoxification.
As more customers got word of Lao Huo Tang‘s soups, he opened more food stalls around the city-state and expanded the menu. The new dishes kept to the health-focused philosophy applied to all eateries and included steamed pork and vegetables. However, the space soon proved to be a constraint, prompting the brand to open its first eatery at Jurong Point 2.
In addition to having more food options, they also began franchising to long-serving staff members allowing them an opportunity to try their hand at running a restaurant of their own. By 2013, Lao Huo Tang was able to open a restaurant in JEM that sold home-style soups and dishes including traditional Chinese Old Cucumber Soup and Herbal Black Chicken Soup with Dried Scallop.
Today, the group has 10 restaurants in Singapore and recently opened their first Lao Huo Tang Restaurant in Malaysia at Gurney Plaza in Penang with many more in the pipeline. They’ve also acquired Eng’s Wanton Noodle and franchise rights for Kenny Rogers Roasters in an effort to diversify and reach audiences in Southeast Asia. And developed ready-to-drink soups alongside Singapore Polytechnic’s Food Innovation and Resource Centre (FIRC).
With a reputation for being a family-friendly establishment on top of offering affordable, healthy Cantonese cuisine, Lao Huo Tang ensures customers of all ages are treated well too. Each restaurant is designed to be family-friendly and inclusive with spaces for wheelchairs and baby stools. All restaurants also do not use MSG and serve alcohol on their premises. Their social initiative, Lao Huo Tang Charity Programme (LHTCP), brings healthy food to the less fortunate and marginalised. Brand ambassadors and actors, Edmund Chen and Lynn Poh, and restaurant staff regularly host seniors from nursing homes for meals.
Even though the brand has come a long way, it continues to add expand its repertoire and streamline its production processes. With a total of 600 employees and around 30 percent over the age of 50, they’ve seen the need to redesign jobs to reduce labour-intensity, increase productivity and offer incentives to workers to encourage them to stay on. In addition to providing training for the inexperienced, they’ve formed partnerships with Enterprise Singapore and Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to come to better solutions.
Lao Huo Tang is now the largest group of restaurants and outlets in Singapore offering healthy Cantonese soups. Awards under their belt include the Promising SME 500 in 2013, the Singapore Prestige Brand Award 2018 (under the Established Brands category) and the Asia Enterprise Brand Awards Winner 2018/19. The recognition has only renewed the brand’s original intention—to bring affordable home-cooked food to more people, both locally and overseas.
Lao Huo Tang restaurants are located at JEM, Waterway Point, The Star Vista, Jurong Point 2, The Seletar Mall, Marina Square, Century Square, Sun Plaza Mall, Nex and Causeway Point. For more information on Lao Huo Tang, please visit laohuotang.com.sg.
Words by Julia Chan