Themed cafes cater to appetite for novelty

SUPER-CAFE: With more than 100 characters to work on, the DC Comics cafe is constantly rolling out new menus inspired by the unique characteristics of DC superheroes.
Themed cafes cater to appetite for novelty

GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL: Singapore's first Pokemon cafe was launched at Bugis Junction on Friday. The pop-up cafe is open until July 31.
Themed cafes cater to appetite for novelty

FAMOUS KITTY: More than 10,000 have visited the Hello Kitty cafe in Changi Airport since it opened last month.


    Jun 02, 2016

    Themed cafes cater to appetite for novelty

    SHE visits the cafe every afternoon to read newspapers and drink a cup of coffee while being surrounded by the most famous superheroes in the world.

    Christina Yeo, who is in her 50s and retired from the tourism industry, has joined the fanfare surrounding themed cafes such as DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe.

    The cafe's marketing consultant Brandon Chu, 35, described his customer who did not want to be interviewed: "She likes the themed decor and the cosy atmosphere of the cafe."

    She is one of many who flock to the DC Comics cafe at Marina Bay Sands every week.

    Customers such as Ms Yeo are the reason why themed cafes are popping up here.

    Singapore's first Hello Kitty cafe opened its doors in Changi Airport earlier this May, while fellow Sanrio character Pompompurin entered the themed cafe business here in April.

    Since it opened three weeks ago, the Hello Kitty cafe has received more than 10,000 customers, said Andrew Khoo, director of group business development at ABR Holdings, the parent company.

    The group decided to start up the cafe here as it realised there is a huge base of local Hello Kitty fans.

    The restaurateurs said that although themed cafes worldwide generally have a life span of three years, they are fairly bullish about prospects here.

    DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe's Mr Chu said: "(Themed cafes) usually don't work out because they just believe in the concept without working hard to develop the menu, retail products and service programme.

    "We're trying not to make the same mistake."

    ABR Holdings' Mr Khoo said: "We are aware that themed cafes have a shorter life span but we will refresh our products on a regular basis."

    The cafe will introduce an afternoon tea set, he added, and bring in new retail items, such as Hello Kitty Orchid Garden postcards and stamps in collaboration with SingPost.

    A Pokemon cafe, the first of its kind in Singapore, also opened on Friday to a five-hour queue of customers waiting to get their fix.

    "In a way, the franchise and I grew up together," said Lim Shi Cheng, 20, an undergraduate at Yale-NUS.

    Ms Lim recalled being disappointed when she was unable to claim a Pokemon character on her handheld game, as it was only distributed in the United States.

    "Now, I have the opportunity to rekindle my love for Pokemon," she said.

    Situated in Bugis Junction, the pop-up cafe will be open till end-July.

    "We wanted to introduce the character-cafe concept to the market fairly quickly, while having more time to plan for a permanent outlet," said Lai Sau Kuen, general manager of Parco Singapore, which holds the franchise for the Pokemon Cafe in Singapore.

    Professor Gemma Calvert of Nanyang Technological University, who studies consumer behaviour, said: "It is true that humans have an insatiable appetite for novelty."

    She added: "In Singapore, there is a clear 'don't want to miss out' culture, and themed cafes play directly into this mindset. Diners are now seeking fully immersive culinary experiences that can be shared though social media."