KUALA LUMPUR: In 2012, people who believed in the reports of an ancient Maya prophecy, were dead sure the world would end. Instead, it was a time for birth – specifically of a humble eatery in Sea Park, Petaling Jaya, called myBurgerLab.
Nearly a decade later, myBurgerLab has become a mainstay in the local fast-food industry, with six outlets located throughout the Klang Valley.
Prior to the pandemic, it was a popular hangout spot for youths. After all, what better way to chill with friends than with a burger in hand?
And while the pandemic has made everyone’s life harder, this burger chain is standing strong.
Not too shabby, considering its founders went into the business with no prior knowledge of the F&B industry: Chin Ren Yi and Cheah Chang Ming have backgrounds in engineering, while Teoh Wee Kiat is a business graduate.
According to Chin, myBurgerLab’s journey involved great risk and even greater luck. “It was born out of a desire not to work for others and wanting to be our own employers,” he tells FMT.
The F&B industry seemed a viable route, and it certainly helped that they were avid foodies themselves.
“We all love food and serving people. Burgers were the easiest to cook at the time. There was nothing overly complicated about the thought process,” Chin says.
Leaping into an entirely unfamiliar business was a very risky move, he acknowledges. Given that eateries tend to fail easily, he considers myBurgerLab very fortunate to have survived its early years at all.
Sharing photos of one’s meal on social media was, and is, all the rage, which is why myBurgerLab’s beautiful presentations quickly garnered online attention after it launched.
Burgers were also the “in” thing in 2012, and positive word-of-mouth helped the fledgling outlet build its customer base very quickly.
The signature charcoal buns were a deliberate decision as “we could not look like any other burger out there”, Chin says.
And while he knows myBurgerLab’s prices are not the cheapest, he believes customers are willing to fork out for high-quality food.
A youthful energy
By hiring young Malaysians in their 20s, myBurgerlab has cemented its reputation among that demographic.
“We thought it would be very easy to build a team of young locals. It was not,” Chin reveals.
He explains that youths not only look for high pay but also want a healthy working environment with good company culture, something myBurgerLab has worked hard on building.
“When you work for the F&B industry in Malaysia, you are often not acknowledged. If you’re a cashier, you’re a cashier. If you’re a burger flipper, you’re a burger flipper.”
This lack of acknowledgement will wear down anyone’s desire to work efficiently, which is why myBurgerLab ensures its staff are treated with dignity.
“We want everyone who works here to feel like they own a small part of the business. The ‘my’ in ‘myBurgerLab’ is there so anyone who says it will have a sense of belonging,” Chin adds.
The company’s worker-friendly policies extend to the point that even part-timers can chip in during daily staff meetings.
“I believe in creating a business where people can earn good money, experience career growth, be around people, and have good food.
“We’re not a burger joint first, we’re an educational platform first. All these young people who work for us leave as better individuals.”
From July 26-30, myBurgerLab shut down operations, saying its staff were on the verge of burning out after working tirelessly during the pandemic period.
“People were suffering. They were tired. The happiest of people came into work a shell of themselves,” says Chin.
“Shutting down may have been unprecedented, but someone had to do it.”
Employees are now placed on a weekly rotational basis so no one is overexerted, and also have access to a helpline if they need someone to talk to.
On the subject of the pandemic, myBurgerLab is holding out as long as it can while awaiting a return to some semblance of normalcy.
For the time being, though, Chin is happy as long as his customers and staff are happy. He hopes next year will see the eatery pop up in places like Penang, Johor Bahru and Melaka – but how about branching out internationally?
“We’re in no hurry,” he says. “We’ll do it when the time is right.”