The 31-year-old started ST Group in 2011, and the company now boasts a stable of restaurants across Australia and New Zealand.
The young entrepreneur’s appetite for expansion is good news for foodies, with Australia’s first Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart store set to launch later this year.
“People in Australia are quite adventurous. I think Australia is basically a foodie market, people like to try new things whether it be from Asia, America, or any part of the world,” Tatt Ghee says.
The Malaysian-born CEO has come a long way since his first foray into the hospitality industry.
“I started out in the hospitality industry when I was studying at University of Melbourne. During my uni days I was always actively organizing events in bars and nightclubs. From then, I opened up our first outlet at the union house of Melbourne University. It was a Taiwanese drink store, and that’s what gave me the entrepreneurial bug.”
“After we sold that venture, we moved on to opening a bar in flinders lane (Velour Bar), and Chinatown Melbourne (Chi lounge). And we continue learning and working in the hospitality industry till today.”
Although not all were successful, his ambitious and resilient attitude, coupled with a detailed knowledge of the market, underpins Tatt Ghee’s ascent in the business sphere. “I always had a vision to set up a group which owned multiple outlets across Australia,” he says.
Tailoring popular overseas eateries to suit the local market has been key to ST Group’s success.
“Whatever brand we bring in we always localise the brand and the taste profiles of the products,” Tatt Ghee says. “For example, PappaRich is different here in Australia than in other places in the world. We try to fit out the shop according to what the local market likes. And we adapt the taste profile to the market as well.”
ST Group’s next big venture is to introduce a famous Japanese snack to the Australian market, with the company set to open multiple Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart outlets before the end of the year.
“A big part of what I do is to identify food trends that are big in Asia and ascertaining whether there’s a market for that in Australia. Baked cheese tarts are huge throughout Asia and I’m really confident they’ll be the next big thing here too. Who doesn’t like cheese?!
“I’m excited about bringing Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart to Australia. We’re hoping to open five or six outlets before Christmas,” Tatt Ghee says.
If you think this is just your average cheesecake, think again. Beloved in Japan, the creamy, savoury tarts are made using three types of cheese and can be eaten hot or chilled.
“Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart is a fusion of the east and the west. I say this because tarts are so popular throughout Asia while cheese, of course is one of the most beloved delights of the west. This is our favourite fusion, and we believe that the Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart would appeal to the mass public in Australia.”
“Some of my favourite Australian food brands are Grill’d, Schnitz, and GYG as they are well established and respectable brands here. We have much to learn from these brands.
The new stores have been designed by award-winning Melbourne interior design and architecture practice Architects EAT, and the innovative fitouts are more akin to a luxury boutique on Collins Street’s Paris end than your local bakery. Expect delicious aromas and beautifully crafted cheese tarts adorning counter tops like edible gems.
While many in their early 30s would be be content to sit back and bask in their success, Tatt Ghee isn’t one to rest on his laurels.
“After this journey of five years with the company I feel like the door has just opened, and this is just the initial phase,” he says.
“I hope to bring this company to a different level, not in ten years, but within a couple of years.”
Tatt Gee Saw’s top 3 tips for aspiring business entrepreneurs
1. Persistence – I believe is the most important factor. Even if you fail during the process don’t think of it as the end, rather as a hurdle or part of the process to get you to where you want to be.
2. Passion – Know your passion and your stuff. Be open to ideas from your partners who are as passionate as you are to achieve any goal.
3. Approachability – Know that everyone who you’re meeting or have met may be able to play a part in your business be it in recommendations to personally assisting in your business.