Salty comments didn’t stop this M’sian from doubling his monthly income in a new, bigger place

It was January 2021 when the upscale casual restaurant CC by Mel first opened. Founder Melanie Pong planned that parking the cafe in a small, developing neighborhood in Bukit Jalil was strategic, as residents lacked dining options.

With only 20 diners at a time, Melanie previously told Vulcan Post that CC by Mel had garnered 350-400 orders per week and generated an approximate revenue of RM200,000 per month.

Our first coverage of the startup’s history was met with countless salty comments on social media, with people doubting the numbers being shared.

But just a year later, CC by Mel has moved to a new, bigger spot and is seeing even higher numbers. It is now a 15-minute walk from Bukit Jalil Pavilion (PBJ), taking advantage of the growing footfall in the area.

“I am happy that we are one of the pioneers because many here already know us. It is definitely not a mistake to start in Bukit Jalil,” Melanie said.

“We now serve a wider range of dishes and an improved menu. We are moving to high-end semi-fine catering [concept].”

Strong upward growth

Expanding into a bigger space meant bigger team, responsibilities, cash flow and of course challenges for CC by Mel.

“For the first few weeks it was like a war,” Melanie described. With the restaurant now able to accommodate 70 people, more than three times its previous capacity, the seasoned team of 20 people did not expect the crowds to be so huge.

Natural lighting shines in the cafe / Image credit: CC by Mel

Melanie had to hire more labor, which was not easy to find. The company therefore offered slightly higher than market rates to increase its team to 35 people.

Visiting CC by Mel’s new spot myself, I can confirm that the restaurant was extremely busy during the evening. It was even full, but the staff managed to get all three of us inside without a problem.

During the expansion, there wasn’t much time to spend on R&D before the new spot opened as it happened in tandem with the festive seasons of December and January.

Melanie thanks her team for having imagined some dishes that have now become the signatures of CC by Mel.

Ocean Capellini and Mel’s Bowl / Image credit: CC by Mel

“It was really expensive to complete the new space because we had to make sure that the interior [was] aligned with our upscale dining direction, which is modern Japanese style,” Melanie said. She added that the capital for CC by Mel’s new spot needed more than RM300,000 to complete, aided by bank loans.

Combine gastronomy and nature

When I discovered CC by Mel on Instagram in 2021, I was drawn to the plating of its dishes topped with colorful edible flowers. Talking to Melanie, I found out she was a former florist who loved infusing floral concepts into her food.

At the expanded restaurant, she’s taken it up a notch, and not just for the food.

With a larger space, more plants have been added to the interior decoration. The large windows also provide views of the greenery outside the restaurant, bringing in natural sunlight during the day.

A MUJI-style cafe, steeped in nature / Image credit: CC par Mel

So it’s no surprise that CC by Mel is a popular place among young people who live on Instagram. The restaurant’s ability to blend nature with its already appealing food no doubt makes word-of-mouth marketing via photos and hashtags spread quickly.

This is also reflected in the current sales of CC by Mel. “With bigger space and higher turnover, we managed to achieve over RM400,000 in revenue per month. But of course now we have high operating and ingredient costs,” said revealed Melanie.

As for the food served, CC by Mel has increased its prices to adapt to its new concept. Previously carrying prices between RM22 and RM68 for its dishes, most dishes on the menu now cost more than RM30.

Smoked salmon with potato fondant / Image credit: CC par Mel

“Our team is really keen to improve the taste and quality of food. Therefore, better crockery requires better materials, which ultimately increases the price of food,” Melanie explained.

“Also, running at cafe food standard always gives us strong competition and sometimes our customers don’t like our food. That being said, I decided to improve our menu so that we could serve better food and have less competition.

The Taco Box and Truffle Puddle Pasta Trio I had

The price of CC by Mel’s signature Trio Taco Box has remained constant at RM68. Tasting this dish with its truffle pasta (RM48), I personally felt that the food was delicious and fragrant without being overly complex in flavor, a concept that would be acceptable to most Malaysians.

Of course, I only tried two dishes as the portions were quite generous – which justifies their prices for me – so I can’t speak for every item on the menu.

Grow the business

After opening a cafe in the middle of the 2021 lockdown now rapidly expanding in a year, I asked Melanie what kept it going until today.

F&B is all about cash flow and being pandemic proof. My aim is to open more outlets all over Malaysia covering food outlets, take away kiosks and also fresh seafood retail outlets under [the company].

Melanie Pong, founder of CC by Mel

“That’s what kept me going, building my brand there in hopes of reaching the overseas market in a few years,” she said. “We will move towards the franchise concept once we are stable!

In the shorter term, Melanie hopes to set up her restaurant in one of Klang Valley’s upscale malls by the end of the year. Currently, her team is already in talks with the mall where Melanie hopes to start placing her take-out kiosks.

  • Read more about CC by Mel here.
  • Read other F&B articles we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Melanie Pong, Founder of CC by Mel

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