As with any traditional business, it’s a challenge to keep things as they are, while driving innovation forward. In the case of Lana Cakes, the problem lies in maintaining the same flavor profile – the taste that customers have grown up with – despite changes in technology and the supply chain.
For Kwan, having a legacy of taste is important, but he believes things shouldn’t stay on the status quo. For example, while the classic chocolate fudge cake remained largely unchanged, customer requests for an even more chocolatey version persuaded it to offer a Fudge Lovers Only (FLO) variety, with two-thirds the weight cake made with pure fudge. He lovingly dubs it “a chocolate cake on steroids.”
Lana Cakes is delightfully anachronistic: the business still operates from the same single location, and it didn’t have an internet footprint until late 2018. Contrast that with the eruption of home-baking businesses that saw day since the start of the pandemic, many of them instantly taking to Instagram to attract customers.
“We look at Instagram, and some of them [social media] tools, as means of promoting what we have rather than selling. We are still a very traditional pastry shop. And we think word of mouth still works,” Kwan said.
What about franchise plans then?
“I think given the challenges of the pandemic, that’s not an area I’m focusing on. I think in the longer term I would like to consider taking Lana Cakes internationally. But for now, my focus is on making sure our business in Singapore is strong and as good as it is.
“We built the business on quality and consistency. It’s never about mass production; it’s never about doing as much as you can. I see it more as a marathon, where we want to keep that legacy, we want to go the distance. It’s not a sprint, where you just grow. If we only focus on expansion, can we really maintain the quality and consistency that customers expect of us? he asked rhetorically.
There’s no doubt that running a business that’s been around for 57 years comes with its fair share of responsibility. “At any time, a customer can walk into the store and say they’ve been eating this cake for 30, 40 years. I feel like I almost have to try harder. Upon my return, I knew that it was not easy to take over this business.