THE SPIRIT OF HOSPO – How Elaine and Her Cafe Business is Adapting to COVID-19 Challenges

The Spirit of Hospo (the hospitality industry) is a series of blog posts to showcase how the Kenvale hospitality students/alumni are showing resilience in this challenging time.

Bojio is a cafe based in Oatley in Southern Sydney and is created by the Tang sisters – Elaine and Justine. Elaine is the older sister and graduated from Kenvale College only in 2019 with a Diploma of Hospitality Management and Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery (link). At the end of 2019, Elaine decided to take over this cafe and run the  business  she has always dreamt of combining her passion, business acumen and creativity.  

Elaine was brought up in a family whose livelihood depends on operating a restaurant. This meant that Elaine had to help her parents in the restaurant during high school, and that’s where she first learnt how to cook and develop some business concepts in this field. 

The idea of “east meets west” is what differentiates Bojio from other local cafes, by creating regular menu items with an authentic, Malaysian twist. 

“The name of our cafe ‘Bojio’ translated from Hokkien (a Chinese dialect) which means “where is my invitation?”. It is often used colloquially between friends to ask: “why don’t you invite me out?”. 

“Bojio is a one-of-a-kind culinary establishment with a menu inspired by the idea of simple and honest cooking…using fresh and sustainable ingredients. Bojio takes our customers on a culinary journey like no other cafe has before, by combining Eastern and Western food culture. From classic recipes to new-age kitchen adventures, each dish reflects our passion for the highest quality food presented in a simple yet pleasing manner.

“My sister and I have inspired by our parents in ways where we like to meet new people and share our hospitality journey with others. I think the number one reason that draws us to the hospitality industry is that we share a dream to have our own cafe like how our parents did.”

Says Elaine Tang, co-owner of Cafe Bojio located in Oatley, NSW.

Adapting to COVID-19

Elaine also pointed out how having a chef qualification and work experiences during her college days have helped her adapt to running Bojio more strategically.

“I have learned more of the cooking methods to adapt my menu to make it more suitable for takeaway instead of a dine-in.”

Bojio’s operating mode has thus transitioned to cater to takeouts fully.

Even though we are in isolation, people still need to eat right?

“Luckily, we had a street-facing window counter that we could open up for taking orders or for pick-ups, so it is safer and more convenient for the customers as they do not need to come into the cafe. We also moved our pastry display to the front, and we try to present it as nice as we can to attract people to stop by when they walk past!

“We joined Uber eats as a way of trying to reach more customers, however it is difficult as they charge us 35% + GST which means we do not earn much, however it is better than nothing. 

“Our opening hours have been adjusted to opening from 7am to 5pm,  7 days a week, based on when we find our customers most need our services. We still keep some staff even we now become takeaway so that they can have some work during this crisis. The biggest challenge is maintaining social distancing and safe practices while still trying to provide the usual friendly customer service.” 

Reciprocating Support from Local Communities

Elaine has also felt the warmth of how their regular customers are supportive of helping Bojio, “they don’t ask for senior discounts, or collect coffee stamps to redeem the free coffee. Some customers even ask us to keep the change to support the local business.”

Thinking outside the box, Bojio is also adding pantry staples, such as eggs, milk, flour and etc to help the local residents, as they struggled to get these items from major grocery stores in the area.

Photo taken at Bojio’s soft opening, with Kenvale staff and fellow alumni (6/12/2019)

“I have learned a lot from Kenvale my college and through working experience to help me go through this hard time. I have received support from Kenvale, from Industry Liaison & Marketing teams to help me out and that makes me feel less lonely to face this crisis.

What do you see the future holds in the Hospitality industry?

“I still believe in a good future for the hospitality industry after this crisis. We are seeing the best come out of people in these bad times, seeing the ethos of the hospitality industry. We are lucky to have such a good community. There is a regular customer who is having to self-isolate, so his daughter comes by to pick up his order for him (pictured). We also dropped by his house and delivered a coffee to him the next day to cheer him up.”

Tell us about your popular dishes and most importantly, how can people order from you? :)

Bojio is open for walk-in ordering and pick-up. We welcome everyone to order through:
– Calling us for pick-up or drive-thru (we can pass the order out to their cars)
– Food ordering apps, we are on skip apps and UberEats!

Our best- seller is our signature “Bacon and Egg Roll” as we have our house-made tomato relish

Bacon and Egg Roll, Bojio (Oatley, NSW)

We have also introduced new menu items. Firstly, our “Cheesy Dog” (left) that features our house-made spiced baked beans and melted stringy cheese.

Another exciting new family is our “Rambo Burger” (right) which is literally called “Ramly Bojio Burger”. If you’re from Malaysia, you will know this famous street food which goes by the name “Ramly Burger”. We have added in our own twist to make it our other signature dish “Rambo Burger”.

From Elaine:

I would like to thank all staff from Kenvale College for all the support, especially Bernie (Industry Liaison team) for dropping by Bojio physically to support me, which I deeply appreciated. I would like to thank “Jasper Avenue“, JP & Amanda, they offer us for free photo shooting to help us to promote our business locally as they are currently offering a free shoot to all local businesses in our area.

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