gooood team interviews creative individuals under 35 years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, some are clients, some are ordinary practitioners. gooood is trying to record the authentic living and working states of this era. Your recommendations and suggestions are appreciated!
gooood Under 35 NO.22 introduces Anko Lau (Contact：[email protected]), founder of Doko Bar. This is our first time to interview a client, who respects design a lot and is trying to bring something unique to the customers.
出品人：向玲 / Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑：武晨曦，刘丹阳，陈诺嘉 / Editor: Wu Chenxi, Liu Danyang, Chen Nuojia
My dad is a cook and he has worked on the tourism development in Kanas since the 1990s. I was born in 1991, the same age with my dad’s hotel catering career. And my mom runs a supermarket. Every day, she checks goods and incomes after the supermarket is closed. Actually, I really admire my mom’s steady lifestyle. Consequently, combining my parents’ life, I decided to open a physical store —a restaurant, in which I have the most assurance and confidence. I don’t like complicated things, so Chinese food and Western food are both difficult for me, while the dessert is relatively simple as it can be programmatically controlled—everything is proportioned and what I need to do is to produce. Thus, eventually I decided to open a patisserie.
▼刘子宸正在经营的店铺外观，external view of the shops in operation
↓青山研究所，北京，Aoyama Lab, Beijing
As a client for architects and constructers
There is nothing in high quality yet inexpensive.
我现在倾向于找设计大家，也就是已经在这个领域里有一定知名度的设计师。他设计出来的是一个作品，而不是一个商品，这意味着设计师要付出更大的心血。我们一般和设计师沟通时会明确要求设计师亲自操刀，不能由他的团队代为完成。一个优秀的设计师能够给你的品牌做背书。我们请了日本设计师绪方慎一郎来为我们即将开业的上海店做设计，他设计过京都和东京的Aesop（更多请至：Aesop on gooood）。我们认为通过他的设计，我们的品牌会上一个新台阶，为此花出去的成本是合理的。我也可以借此要求商场在租金和免租期上给予优惠。我们在这方面有自己的商业逻辑，不是怎么好看怎么来，我们做的所有事都是经过计算的。
I am an art student and my Politics course teaches me that there is nothing in high quality yet inexpensive. Thus, the most essential standard to choose the architect is the high price, but the architect and his work should be worthy of the money. On the one hand, the architect requires high rewards. On the other hand, he should be an iconic image that has established his status and voice in the architecture field. He should be either up-and-coming or skilled.
Now, I prefer some master architects, in other words, the architects who have found some certain fame in this field. The designed project should be an architectural work, rather than a commodity, and that requires architects to devote themselves more into the project. Generally, during the negotiation with the architect, we will definitely ask the architect to design himself, instead of his design team. A good architect can endorse your brand. Thus, we invited Japanese architects Shinichiro Ogata, who has ever designed the Aesop (more: Aesop on gooood) in Kyoto and Tokyo, to design for our upcoming store in Shanghai. We believe that through his design, our brand will be at a higher level, and that will be worthy of the cost. Also, based on this, I can request the mall for some discounts on the rent and the rent-free period. On this level, we have our own business logic, which means we don’t care much about the good look, and what we have done are all being considered and calculated seriously.
▼合作设计师及代表作，designers in collaboration and their representative works
Unless necessary, I won’t see too much.
Every time I open a new patisserie, I have already had an overall image about its desired style and architects. Now, I won’t involve myself into the design process, rather, negotiate with the architects about the functional requirements, such as the location of the display window, as well as the number of ovens and refrigerators below it, etc. I expect to pass the baton to architects to design an amazing space. In fact, my problem, or, many operators’ problem is seeing too much. That will place ourselves in a situation of continuous and alternative self-denial and self-affirmation, therefore, sometimes we can’t tell the difference. Thus, now, unless necessary, I won’t see too much, as seeing too much will affect not only myself, but also the architect. Basically, once the architects gave me one or two schemes, I would decide the final one without too many comments.
Definitely, sometimes there are disagreements between the architect and me, as I have a lot of obsessions, which are not necessarily cared by the architect. However, I won’t argue with the architect because of these minor details, which will leave a bad impact on our collaboration. After we have a general design plan, the architect will come up with a series of furniture brands he prefers. If both of us are interested in them, we will select some suitable brands from our previous suppliers to collaborate.
I have established my own aesthetics through the communication with architects.
▼青山研究所室内，interior of Aoyama Lab
Originally, we didn’t aim for a research institute atmosphere when we designed the Aoyama Lab. There were some differences between what the architect designed and what we thought about, which yet I could accept. In my view, the architect brought me another perspective, making me learn about how to think about some issues from a broader aesthetics. Some of my friends said that I had operated so many stores and seen so many designs that actually, I could do the design myself and just find someone to produce drawings. But for me, compared with the architect, I think I am lack of a broader view. I only focus on details, only have a feeling that it will be better if I can put something in someplace, but have no idea about how to combine this thing with others. Moreover, a good architect is supposed to understand the construction technology, such as the joints of the glass and the ground, as well as the decontamination and the antiskid of the white floor. Good architects have their own methods and requirements for the construction technology.
▼青山研究所设计细部，details of Aoyama Lab
I am not so satisfied with our store design, and it is keeping improving. Frankly, the easiest way of the design is to find the same architect, because that can reduce the negotiation cost, time cost, even the design cost. However, if do, I expect to do something interesting, instead of the duplication, and find different architects to bring us different design languages. Architects’ life experiences can endow new vitality to the brand. In addition, aesthetics are a long-term development process. Gradually, I have established my own through the communication with architects.
We are clear about every step of the construction.
Our company will participate in every stage of the construction process. We have a project manager that will be responsible for all works of all stages of in-site construction from the very beginning of the construction. And because we need to control the time, we are clear about every step of the construction, including when the engineering materials will arrive at the site.
As a entrepreneur to the market
You need to say thanks to the circumstance, but the prerequisite is that you can do a well-done work.
The Doko Bar, our first patisserie, opened in June 2016. The construction only cost three months, while the entire planning process was a really long period, costing us one year or two, for we hadn’t decided a suitable location. When I was in Paris in the spring of 2016, one of my friends told me that there would be a vacancy that I loved so much. And I bought it immediately, although I didn’t have a specific plan about this site then. So to say, my first patisserie was opened in a coincidence.
▼北京第一家客从何处来外观，external view of the first Doko Bar in Beijing
And our first store in the field of the beauty care located in Sanlitun will open very soon. Designed by a Taiwanese architect, this over 600 square meter store will subvert people’s imaginations and understandings towards the beauty care. Inside the store, there will be a clinic space for the traditional Chinese medical science, where the prescribed medicine will be sold to customers in the form of small capsules.
▼三里屯正在筹划的美容店意向图，rendering of the beauty care store under construction in Sanlitun
I think the circumstance is a marvelous thing. It is unpredictable that what kind of people you will meet and what kind of things you will encounter. Actually, I had never thought some day I could achieve today’s success. Sometimes you need to say thanks to the circumstance, but the prerequisite is that you can do a well-done work. I expect that we can be the top brand in China’s dessert industry in the future. Now, it seems that we have a relatively high ranking in the domestic dessert industry. Different from the Honeymoon Dessert, we never call ourselves a patisserie, rather, a restaurant. Our service philosophy and mode are all inspired by and in the form of the restaurant, and I dare to say that our business and operational capabilities are among the best in China. This year, based on our own funds and operation, we have opened four stores at least, without any financing or accepted investments. In general, I am satisfied with this development situation.
▼富有文化韵味的甜品，dessert with a taste of culture
Provide its employees and collaborators with better substance and resources through the company.
▼给刘子宸留下深刻印象的北欧餐厅，the restaurant in North Europe, which left deep impression on Anko Lau
Originally, I opened stores just out of the interest. Subsequently, you have more followers, you have a team, since when you can’t just open stores for yourself, but also be responsible for your employees’ future. After achieving some certain levels, I was aware of the meaning of the social responsibility of the entrepreneur, which includes providing its employees and collaborators with better substance and resources through the company. We have a jasmine tea garden in Fujian. Every year, I need to pay the tea grower peasants a lot of money and help with the technology improvement and the organic production. Next year, we will design a superior restaurant in Kanas of Xinjiang Province. This year, I have been to a restaurant in the Northern Europe that ranks only second to Noma, and that restaurant has left a great shock on me. The restaurant is located in a small town. At that time I was on a taxi and chatting with the driver when he told me that it was the best restaurant there and worthy of trying. Later, I found that no one in this town didn’t know this restaurant on my way there, realizing that a restaurant could promote the image of an island more than we could imagine. I grew up in Kanas, an international scenic spot. However, its development is always at a low level, and people there earn money only by visitor volumes with no one having the idea of increasing their incomes by adding extra values. So taking this as an example, if I can open a restaurant like that in the small town of the Northern Europe, inspiring local people in Kanas to earn money in this way, I will dare to say I am an entrepreneur with social responsibilities.
▼刘子宸在福建的茉莉花茶园，jasmine tea garden in Fujian, owned by Anko Lau
You are expected to train better staffs within the company.
Now, our team consists of over 100 people with a relatively stable and mature overall development, having a basic structure made of frontline staffs and second-line staffs. Frontline staffs are those who work at stores, while the second-line staffs are those who work in the offices, including designers, accountants, administrators, operators and PR new media staffs. Every year, we will provide our staff with the opportunities to study abroad. This year, we sent a store manager to study for the master degree in Hotel Management in US. And when he comes back, he will sign a five-year employment agreement with us. That means you are expected to train better staffs within the company: on the one hand, you need to guarantee every staff a bright prospect; on the other hand, you need to build up a long-term stable employment relationship with your staff.
We find that the staffs with a sense of belonging are the earliest ones who worked with me from the very beginning, because they have witnessed how our brand grows to today’s stage and thus, having a sense of success and recognizing our brand. I think the close relationship between the company and employees are established based on the communication and the concern. Therefore, every year, I will talk with all of my employees one-to-one before the Chinese Year is coming, to understand his vocational development in our company, his recognition towards our company, the problems he has encountered this year and the expectation he has for the next year. In fact, many employees don’t have a clear plan for their future, which will do no good for their career in my opinion, therefore, I lead them to think about their prospects toward the next year and escape from the idea of always staying at a fixed position. Our new stores come up in a rapid pace, requiring us to select managers from the frontline employees. Actually, we have hardly ever had the airborne managers, and most of our managers are selected from frontline employees, which will encourage frontline ones to work harder and go further.
Always consider issues from the perspective of our consumers.
I am the most afraid of talking about the success, since I don’t think I am successful, neither can I define the success. Nowadays, the market has been really competitive, meaning that I talk with you guys cheerfully and humorously today, while I would encounter with the bankrupt tomorrow.
The advantage rooted in our brand is our operation mode and we always consider issues from the perspective of our consumers. When communicating with my team, the first thing I ask them is like: what kind of service would you want if you were in an extremely store? Thus, the thing is that never treat customers as fools. Actually, this is the very common problem for the catering industry and the service industry, since they think customers know nothing about commodities. However, you should remember that you are never expected to serve with such a mentality, as one day you will be a customer as well, and that can enhance the importance of the empathy. Only when you consider an issue from the customers’ views, will you know where your problem is.
▼正在享受甜品的顾客，customers enjoying the desserts
The second point is called descending dimension competition. We offer a very detailed service, for instance, we provide our men and women customers with goods in different colors, like the water, even knives and forks —the black ones for men, while the golden ones for women. This will create a high-end service for customers with a reasonable price. You probably can’t afford the cheapest house, but there is no doubt that you can enjoy the most expensive dessert. In terms of the consumption, everyone can stay at an equal condition without too much pressure.
delicate designed tablewares create a high-end service for customers
Become a standard in this field.
Nowadays, everyone is talking about how to educate the market, while in my view, the market is formed out of self-awakening instead of education. It doesn’t mean that I can improve my aesthetics if I eat in my restaurant every day. I expect the Doko Bar and the Aoyama Lab can have a voice and become a standard in this field, and that is the very common core philosophy for all brands when they have reached to the highest developmental level. Actually, it doesn’t matter whether you have opened a lot of stores as it is just a quantitative issue.
As a social being
The most important thing is to insist on your mind and ignore any labels others impose on you.
Today’s economy is called the appearance economy, which means the comments on food from customers are based on whether they have the intention to walk into the restaurant. A lot of people despise the celebrity effect, while I hold a totally different view. It should be a common thing that you decorate your stores in an appealing and beautiful style, let alone you never achieve this through stealing and robbing. Many people call this kind of stores as celebrities with huge followings. To be honest, I didn’t like these stores and this kind of culture at first; however, later I realized that the money and my life were based on this celebrity effect. Therefore, I don’t think it is a good idea to stand your own dignity or treat yourself as a high-class essence; and the most important thing is to insist on your mind and ignore any labels others impose on you.
▼甜品店外排起长龙，people waiting for their turn outside the dessert store
This field is eager for some people with patience and have the willing to build up their own characters.
It is easy to become a key opinion leader since it only requires a kind of attracting look. But the thing is that it is difficult for a key opinion leader to marry into the purple and become a genuine lady. A beautiful appearance is just a beginning, while the inherent knowledge is the essential on which you can rely to live by yourself. Leaving the experience or lessons aside, I think this field is eager for some people with patience and have the willing to build up their own characters. I really like the philosophy idea existing in the golden mean of the Confucian School in China and that makes me realize the importance of the toleration of a small loss in the commercial and business field. I have established a very good relationship between my suppliers, because I can tolerate the small loss. Sometimes a small confusion and loss can lead you to a good result. Based on everyone’s reasonable profit margin, the business can be operated in a long term. The faucets in our restrooms are made by a German brand in an extremely high price. Some time ago, the headquarters of this brand sent some people to communicate with us to see whether we were willing to continue to use their products or not. If yes, they could offer us a free installation since they had achieved a substantial increase of the sales volume in China because of the products used in our stores. Finally, we built up a reciprocal relationship as they could earn profits, while we could obtain good commodities. It is very common that all stores aim for the profit, but I am not a person who tends to pursue the maximum profit. It is something apart from the profit that makes you distinguish from the common herd, and that is the reason why I don’t work on the brand join.
As for the business, you need to consider about keeping the same pace with your team since if you run too fast, it will be hard for your team to follow you. Actually, I am thinking every second a day, but that doesn’t mean my employees should do that like me for that will put too much pressure that even can’t be vented out on them. Thus, now, the only thing I can do is to improve wages, and this action leads to a situation where the material costs, as well as the operating costs, become higher and higher. This is not a suitable field for freshmen as there are too many people crowding in a market that is smaller than we imagine. In addition, there will be two totally different situations if you open a store this year or the next year, like I can’t tell whether it could be as popular as now if I opened another such a store today. Thus, the timing of opening a store is relatively important. I can give you a simple example: I could obtain more than 100,000 reads with little efforts when I published a message on Wechat two years ago, which sounds impossible today. We are in an era of the information explosion, which means no one has the energy to read hundreds of messages sent by Wechat official accounts.
I have hardly ever participated in the experience sharing activities since I think every mode has its uniqueness. From a bigger view, the socialism of the Soviet Union is not in accord with China. For a candidate that has already been on the track, the thing is not to imitate people who are ahead of him, but to try his best to think about how to run faster. Some people listen to others’ success every day, becoming a master on the theory, but a rookie on the practice, which is not worthy of reference. Similarly, for others, my experience is just a story and I don’t think it can bring them any inspiration.