Before Holycow! Steakhouse, Jakartans never talked about wagyu. Now, whenever wagyu is mentioned, Holycow! Steakhouse immediately comes to everyone’s mind. Yes, they are the main cause of the wagyu frenzy in Jakarta in the past years. The Holycow! story is a mixture between hard work and brilliant initiatives. The owner, Afit Purwanto, shares with us their ingredients of success.
As a marketing officer for one of the biggest local TV stations, Afit Purwanto had the privileges of entertaining clients and taking them out to fine dining establishments. He and his team would also be able to sample the finer things whenever they finalized big deals with their clients. It was during these meals that Afit started to visit premium steak houses around Jakarta.
‘My first affair with wagyu was incredibly passionate. I just couldn’t wait to tell my wife about how good it was , I really enjoyed this wondrous meat’, expressed Afit remembering his virgin flight with some of the most expensive beef in the city. His wife, Lucy Wiryono, simply just asked him, ‘What is wagyu anyway? I’ve never heard about it!’
‘Well, wagyu was rare back then and no supermarket sold it yet. Until finally we found a meat shop which did’, said Afit. From here, the small happy family treat themselves to grilled wagyu once in a while and Afit even started to cook it from time to time for family events. ‘Everybody enjoyed it and gave praises. They ultimately told me to start a business instead!’, he said.
From here, the couple agreed upon a bold idea to open a steakhouse specializing in wagyu. This was of course to differentiate themselves with other steakhouses and also to introduce wagyu to everyone. ‘We wanted to share the enjoyment of having wagyu with everybody but also in an affordable way’, said Afit stating the real mission behind Holycow! Steakhouse.
Afit resigned from his job and used his bonus to start a roadside warung. ‘In order to make it affordable, we only take a little profit from every wagyu sold but we’re keeping up with the quality as well’, shared Afit and continued by Lucy, ‘We started it modest and with a thorough research for an exit strategy should we ultimately fail. On top of that, we also want our employees to be paid decently and on time. Thankfully everything went well and we got through our deadline!’
The couple’s strategy to utilize social media was a pivotal decision. ‘Since the beginning, we offered both wagyu and non-wagyu steaks and people share between themselves to taste the difference. Later they shared their experiences through Twitter’, said Afit.
Within a relatively short period, Holycow! Steakhouse has become a darling for many Jakartans who want to enjoy their steaks for lunch, dinner, and even for midnight breakfasting during Ramadhan month. The steakhouse also issues several initiatives to attract more patrons like giving away free wagyu for those who celebrate their birthdays or a buy-one-get-one promo for certain days of a week.
Aside from the noble ideas to share wagyu to everyone and perseverance through modest profit margins, educating people has also been a specific goal for the steakhouse as well. Afit further elaborated, ‘At first we were only introducing the prime cuts and after we felt our patrons became more explorative, we decided to add secondary cuts to entice our patrons to be adventurous with their meat!’
One simply cannot deny the immense growth of this steakhouse. Several outlets in Jakarta and Yogyakarta have become the proof of success of once a modest roadside warung. Further, Afit even opened different concept restaurants involving seafood and Japanese-style steaks using his unique approach in business.
From how it looks, the couple may be enjoying the fruits of their labor now, but with Afit’s endless creativity and Lucy’s faithful support, we’ll see more of their interesting initiatives in the future. So for now, stay tune and enjoy the steak!
Follow Holycow! Steakhouse Twitter account at: @steakholycow
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE March 2014 edition
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Photos by: Dennie Benedict