Saturday, 11 February 2012

Tong Heng - A Sweet Success Story

Success didn’t strike overnight, far from it. This one took patience, grit, and cool business sense.

Tong Heng had its beginnings on Keppel Road in the 1920s, where its founder was one among many who peddled drinks, snacks, and biscuits to shipyard and other blue-collar workers. By 1932 he had saved enough to open a restaurant on Smith Street in Chinatown, selling dim sum. Dim sum was popular food, but competition was again rough; so he streamlined his “business direction” and focused on the bestsellers. Thus began the Tong Heng egg tart’s road to food stardom.

The business today is into its third generation; headed by three sisters, Constance, Rebecca, and Cynthia Fong. And, like many family businesses, it’s managed in a decidedly non-corporate style. Decisions are made around the family table; and since early recipes were not properly documented, the sisters had to resort to research, and rounds of test cooking, to improve, and, finally perfect, the family recipes.

But they almost didn’t get to do it: their father didn’t want them involved in the business initially. But then, community work bogged him down, and an accident he suffered affected his running of the business.

The sisters eventually took over, and their sheer hard work shows in the many popular products sold over Tong Heng counters. Foods sold in their father’s day today appear in new reinventions; and the sisters created and launched the brand’s highly successful range of moon cakes in the late 1970s. They proudly point out that their colored snow-skin moon cakes were the first of their kind in Singapore, and featured four flavors: durian (yellow-skinned), strawberry (pink), vanilla (white), and pandan (green).

Today, with a staff of more than ten in the kitchen, and two retail outlets, the company needs to produce thousands of their signature egg and coconut tarts and other snacks, each day. Like the proud owners that they are, the three women boast of their in-house-made ingredients, such as the red bean and lotus paste fillings, the kayas, and dough.

Tong Heng is today an instantly recognizable name; and, famed egg tart aside, its other bestsellers include the coconut tart, char siew puff, and vegetarian coin-biscuit.  They have even introduced Hong Kong-style desserts at their shops.

Tong Heng
285 South Bridge Road
Singapore 058833
Tel:   6223 3649, 6223 0398