For many millennials in Singapore, PS.Cafe needs no introduction. After all, it is perhaps the best representation of a ‘coming of age’ establishment for many.
The concept, which evolved from a single hole-in-the-wall outlet tucked away at the back of a fashion boutique in 1999 to the F&B mainstay it is today, was the place where young Singaporeans celebrated many of their firsts – graduations, jobs, dates. It was the O.G. café – before there was even a cafe culture in Singapore.
Edward Lee, Group Business Director of PSGourmet Group, joined the company in 2009 and has had a first-row seat to the company’s growth alongside the nation.
“Guests who once embarked on their first dates at PS.Cafe now return with their children to celebrate momentous occasions,” he says. “Our spaces have been the backdrop of many celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, first dates, proposals, and even a few weddings.”
It’s a humbling experience to be a part of such cherished moments, he says, and a big part of the reason why he decided to make a transition from the banking and finance industry to the food and beverage one in the first place.
Wanting a more “tangible deliverable and creative environment that enables swift implementation of changes and immediate customer feedback”, Lee joined PS.Gourmet as the Financial Controller in 2009, where he was tasked with facilitating the transition from the Group’s fashion-focused business to one centred around its food and beverage operations.
In F&B, he found “a canvas for innovation and the exploration of new ideas”, where he could contribute to the design and creation of products, spaces, and experiences. He eventually moved on to the role of General Manager before being appointed Business Director.
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- CREATING A WELCOMING HOME
- BRINGING SINGAPORE TO THE WORLD
Creating A Welcoming Home
If PS.Gourmet’s founders Peter Teo, Philip Chin, and Richard Chamberlain were the guys with the vision and the plan, then Lee was the guy whom they trusted to execute it.
In his current capacity, Lee oversees both local growth and expansion efforts abroad, which means he is involved in all facets of the business – from the financials to food tasting – all while scouting locations for future Group projects.
One aspect of his role that he particularly relishes is being able to collaborate on each of the Group’s new restaurants. To him, it’s akin to “treating each space as [their] own home, and welcoming guests into [their] sanctuary”.
“We take pride in celebrating our history and heritage while simultaneously acknowledging the uniqueness of local palates and embracing the subtle intricacies of local consumer behaviors.”
“Opening one's home to others is an act that combines vulnerability and humility. However, when executed with precision, it yields immense satisfaction and fulfilment. The priority has been and must remain about creating comfortable escapes that unite people.”
On this front, PSGourmet Group has been particularly successful. Each of its 13 outlets (eleven PS.Cafe outlets, the anglo-chinese concept Chopsuey Café, and the contemporary Japanese restaurant Jypsy) are all anchored by beautiful, effortlessly stylish spaces worthy of many an Instagram shot.
Of course, the relaxed vibes of these spaces belie the amount of attention to detail that goes into putting each of them together.
PS.Cafe at Marina Bay Sands
Lee elaborates: “Our foremost consideration in selecting a location is the ability to evoke inspiration. We meticulously explore each space's potential, considering various factors such as the surrounding area, architectural elements, ambience, and overall vibe. We then seek to create a harmonious connection between the location and our concept.”
The Group’s latest outlet at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, for example, takes inspiration from its luxury fashion neighbours and the bustling cafe culture of Paris. As such, a floating island suspended within the Canal at The Shoppes and sheltered by black-and-white parasols is meant to bring to mind a romantic dining experience along the Seine River.
Well-loved comfort food staples like the iconic Truffle Shoestring Fries are of course on the menu, alongside other PS.Cafe classics, such as the PS. Burger and PS. Big Breakfast. New items like the Buttermilk Chicken Nasi Lemak and Duck Confit Curry with Crispy Roti adds a tourist-friendly Singaporean dimension to the menu.
Sometimes, the process is reversed and the team “envisions a persona and seeks a fitting location through their perspective”, Lee adds.
“For instance, Jypsy was conceptualized through the eyes of a free-spirited nomadic Japanese chef who embraces both the surf culture and culinary artistry. Inspired by his experiences in Bali, Okinawa, and Kauai, Jypsy at One Fullerton embodies elements of these locations in its design and menu offerings, with outdoor views of the marina and an indoor seaside hole-in-the-wall setting.”
“Through meticulous consideration of the location's characteristics and careful alignment with our concept and persona, we strive to create unique spaces that inspire and captivate our guests.”
- CREATING A WELCOMING HOME
- BRINGING SINGAPORE TO THE WORLD
Bringing Singapore to the World
Pre-pandemic, PS.Group had already begun laying roots overseas. In 2019, it opened two outlets in Shanghai – one at Xintiandi Plaza and another at Grand Gateway mall. After a three-year hiatus because of the pandemic, the Group was ready to kickstart expansion plans once again.
Lee says the company is currently in the “development phase” of its third PS.Cafe in Shanghai at Raffles City Changning, a location that holds historical significance having once housed China’s first girls school within a heritage building. Like all its other sister outlets, the restaurant will “draw inspiration from Singapore’s iconic black-and-white Tudor houses”, so as to “honour the Singaporean heritage while showcasing dishes inspired by the region”. It’s a strategy Lee explains as key to distinguishing the company in new markets.
“We take pride in celebrating our history and heritage while simultaneously acknowledging the uniqueness of local palates and embracing the subtle intricacies of local consumer behaviors,” he says, summarily.
PS.Cafe at Grand Gateway, Shanghai, China. Photo via pscafe.com
But no matter where in the world, Lee says the secret to PSGourmet Group’s success over the last 24 years is its ability to “evoke joy” and in essence, helping guests feel right at home.
“While certain trends may come and go, our enduring appeal lies in providing a welcoming, vibrant sanctuary that exudes energy and celebrates comfort food. These havens have enabled our guests to celebrate the simplicity of everyday life. What sets us apart is thus not solely what guests see, but how they feel when they engage with our brand.
“Each project is approached with the mindset of creating a forever home, encapsulating our secret sauce that has consistently contributed to our success. It is the culmination of all the intricate components that form the essence of our DNA.”