It is now only a year to go now until Dapur Solo, a Jakarta-based Javanese cuisine restaurant chain, commemorates its thirtieth year of existence. Like legends of prominent start-up businesses, Dapur Solo actually also started from a home garage, selling only rujak (Indonesian-style salad with spicy dressing) and fruit juices at that time.
The proprietress Mrs Swandani Kumarga began promoting her rujak to people in her neighborhood spreading pamphlets on a bicycle. Gradually, she began introducing traditional Central Javanese cuisine – particularly dishes coming from the city of Solo and Yogyakarta. She’s paying a tribute to her ancestral hometown’s recipes and from there, her business rose to prominence around the area of Sunter in Northern Jakarta.
Many years later, the same passion and perseverance remain. Hardworking and dynamic as always, Mrs Swan keeps herself in touch with many key aspects of the business. “Passion is key in F&B industy as we will not go far without it. You definitely have to know your customers better, recognize the best ingredients, and once you are bigger – quality control is number one”, shares the lady.
Mrs Swan now runs 15 outlets of Dapur Solo on a different scale – including five full-fledged restaurants and her more recent innovations such as the delivery outposts and an homage to traditional Indonesian desserts and snacks shop, branded as Iki Koue and Sowan.
Despite the business started from as far as 1988, Dapur Solo underwent major expansions which only took place just a decade ago. There was a drive behind all these changes and apparently, the reason was undoubtedly poetic.
“It all started with a dream”, says Mrs Swan. It’s a tag line also seen in one corner of her every restaurant. Her visionary goal is to promote Indonesian cuisine on international level and by that, there’s a perpetual need to expand. Even up until now, there’s only a handful of well-standardized Indonesian restaurant chain and mostly are only in Jakarta, with Dapur Solo as one of them. Competition is rather fierce, especially coming from the more experienced Western cuisine chain restaurants and people’s preference with that.
Mrs Swan was quick to open her second outlet on the wealthy Southern Jakarta neighborhood in 2007 and that was only a year after the re-branding campaign. As an avid marketer and quick learner, Mrs Swan knows really well on how to utilize young talents to create the whole new fresh look of her business, playing around with other initiatives such as the successful delivery system known as DS Lunch Box, and more recently – harnessing the power of social media.
Even so, Dapur Solo is still pretty much conservative when it comes to bigger expansion plans. “We are expanding only by using our own capital. The thought of franchising the business was intriguing, but we do not want to compromise quality”, she says. She is lamenting the fact that many franchisees nowadays are more profit-minded rather than seriously involving themselves in the business.
Now as her Dapur Solo grows, the role of central kitchen and training center become more important than ever. Learning from all the trials and errors, Mrs Swan has created a unique logistics process – starting with devising right recipes since Indonesian cuisine is difficult to standardize, the division of roles between central kitchen and the outlets, the delivery scheduling, and other minute details.
Additionally, Dapur Solo also boasts its value proposition to differentiate what it has to offer against the competition. Two things generally perceived immediately by people in general are that Indonesian food is supposedly cheap and that it can be found easily on the streets rather than at the restaurants. Mrs Swan quickly refute the arguments with several facts of her own.
“Certainly you can always choose cheaper options; but what we have to offer here is hygiene, the quality of water, authentic recipes, air-conditioned restaurants, and service. I have also appointed native greeters as my representative to give that Javanese hospitality, in addition to the Javanese feel that came from the restaurant’s design and the food itself”, she tells us.
Despite her conservative move all this time, Mrs Swan is still faithful with her dream to expand beyond borders, “If the time comes, probably we will need to come up with a smart collaboration plan with investors to open our outlet outside of Jakarta and even abroad”. She prefers to create an open managerial system as a way to keep balance between her family and the shareholders.
Moreover, the government is now more open than ever to promote Indonesian cuisine internationally. With their support, it would be easier for Dapur Solo with its immense experience to tackle issues abroad such as permits, export-import, location, as well as promotion.
Now with her daughter ready to take the rein anytime, it would be interesting to see what happens next. Because even at her age of 56 now, Dapur Solo still continue to surprise everyone here and one day – the most discerned diners abroad.
DAPUR SOLO | www.dapursolo.com
Images by: Dapur Solo