Text and images by Tris Marlis @ Makansutra
Singapore’s Cheese Prata Man is not a food guy and doesn’t take any cheese. Mr Abdul Bashir Saidek is a businessman who sees opportunities.12 years ago, he opened Niqqi’s and started a cheese prata craze. Now it’s cheesy and common that many ask for cheese in their pratas.
Some of you might have heard of his story. When he first started he didn’t even know how to make prata, but he saw potentials in a local roti prata shop and at a time when pizza was very popular in Singapore. So, he came up with the idea of stuffing his prata with cheese. He succeeded with one good idea and a lot of guts.
Local media used to call him the “millionaire cheese prata man”, but the man is a lot more reserved with his fame now. “In the past, I said too much during interviews. I got into a lot of trouble,” he explains.
After eight months of renovation, Niqqi’s recently resumed business on 7th of November. With competitions everywhere, business is hard to do and Mr Abdul shares some of his ups and downs.
When you started Niqqi’s you didn’t know to make prata at all, weren’t you afraid? No. I am not a food guy, but I enjoy food. We did experiments, we learned and we launched. At the time, nobody was selling cheese prata. So, no fear.
Now that cheese prata is everywhere, how to you differentiate your prata with others? We don’t differentiate. You cook what you cook, I cook what I cook. I maintain my quality, I won’t compete. My business is my business, not other’s. I rather spend time on improving my food then comparing with others.
So you open 12 hours now instead of 24 hours, why? Manpower. We have been advertising, people talk about it, but still can’t find manpower to work. Singaporeans don’t want to do this kind of job.
Does the manpower problem affect your quality of food and service? Quality…. No. Service…. Yes.
How do you handle complaints? I do statistics. Not all complaints are genuine, you see. We take all complaints but have to see to what extent. I am very wise with complaints. If customers get wrong order, we change, no problem. I have customers who finished their food and then complain food is not nice, such customers I don’t give respect. But lucky most of our customers are nice la, I will say 99% of them are nice.
What is the best part of this business? In food business, people eat every day. As much people eat, we also eat. Our food is popular among people… different backgrounds, different races, different professions. When customers give me feedback, good or bad, that makes my day. Be positive, climbing or descending, have a positive mind set and you will go. If customers come with complaints, take it as a challenge and work on it. Don’t just sit there.
What about the worst part? The worst thing in all business is…. no business.
So, you are a millionaire now. I don’t comment on this. A lot of businessmen are millionaires. A lot of people out there are millionaires. I just want to run my business and be a happy man.
What is next for Niqqi’s? Any new prata? No, you see, we already have everything in the menu, it’s a lot. But I am thinking to do Thai seafood. I am also looking at Indonesia market. My chefs are having training in Malaysia now, so we’ll see.
Is there anything else that you would like to share? Do an honest business, do a sincere business. Don’t cheat, don’t lie. When I say don’t cheat, it’s not on the money, it’s the ingredients. When you cheat, you are just ruining the quality of food. I believe in no cheating and no compromising. Also, you must know what you are selling.
Niqqi’s the Cheese Prata Shop 18 Clementi Rd Temporary business hours is 4.00pm to 4.00am www.niqqischeeseprata.com.sg