Part I: May 2017

chotto was never meant to be permanent.

It was conceived in 3 weeks, after costly and long-drawn negotiations with council and the architect to establish a restaurant on the site reached a standstill. Financially stretched and desperate to get started, we asked council if we could open a pop-up cafe. Yes, they said, with one caveat: we had to operate within the existing footprint, and to avoid permits, everything had to be kept as it was.

And so chotto was pulled together, on second-hand equipment and an incredibly modest budget. We never knew how long we would trade for - 3 months, 6 months, a year... We weren't sure how traditional Japanese breakfast would be received, so we left it such that we could pull out if needed with minimal losses. 

In the beginning, we invested everything back in the business. Fridges and a new air-conditioning system (our existing one didn't work) for summer, a new cooker hood (customers from our early days will remember the smoky dining room), grease trap and a little deep-fryer. We pay our staff proper wages and penalty rates, and chose not to implement a weekend or CC surcharge (because as a customer, we wouldn't want to pay extra either).

In May this year, we started to question keeping chotto open after the slim profits we make continue to go towards the tax department. 

chotto still has a long way to go before it can become a full-fledged restaurant; the domestic set-up has been pushed to its limit, and infrastructural work is needed to upgrade to a commercial kitchen. 

And so we launched the mirai project: a series of workshops, private dinners and events, and made plans to obtain a liquor license and open for dinners...

 

Caryn Liew