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This S’porean Transformed His Family’s Snack Store Into A Brunch Cafe


Tucked away in a nondescript neighbourhood along Crawford Lane is a cafe that is constantly bustling with customers.

Singaporeans are known to be foodies and can suss out a good spot easily. Thus, the snaking long queues seen outside Tolido’s could be a testament to the quality of their food.

Tolido’s Espresso Nook has been around for more than seven years, and has come a long way from the small snack store it used to be previously.

Despite not having any business experience, co-founder and head barista Douglas Tan was able to turn the business into a well-loved brunch spot back in 2013.

From A Humble Canteen Store To Popular Brunch Cafe

Image Credit: Tolido’s Espresso Nook

Douglas told Vulcan Post that Tolido’s was originally a small store at the canteen of the Science Centre’s omni-theatre back in 2008.

It was a family stall serving all-day breakfast spreads, and was run by Douglas’ mother.

However, in 2013, they had to move out of the building as it was going to be demolished.

As Tolido’s was a family business, it was his family’s only source of income. Thus, they had to adapt and look for new sources of revenue.

Since Douglas also has a passion for making coffee, the Tan family decided to turn Tolido’s into a cafe.

“Being a family business and not having much, we merely began with whatever we had currently at the time or from our canteen previously, along with some home-use cookware and appliances,” said the 28-year-old.

Brunch Food With A Singaporean Twist

Tolido's Espresso Nook
Image Credit: Tolido’s Espresso Nook

After seven years of operations, Tolido’s has become well known for its local take on traditional brunch offerings.

Douglas takes extra steps to incorporate Singaporean flavours into the usual Western fare.

For example, the 462 Prawn Laksa Pasta which goes for S$17 is essentially Singapore’s classic Laksa in pasta form.

Though many might be skeptical about the fusion, it is a hit with customers, and the internet is flooded with pictures of the creamy laksa dish.

Other popular dishes include the Pandan Pancakes which feature another local twist. In fact, the S$11 pancakes were created for Singapore’s 50th birthday.

However, customers loved it so much that it has become a permanent fixture on the menu.

When asked about the inspiration behind the dishes at Tolido’s, Douglas shared that a lot of the dishes were meals his family felt should be accessible as a breakfast staple to Singaporeans.

Back then, we felt that breakfast in Singapore lacked variety and importance, and a lot of comfort foods I loved were only made at home. From this, we wanted to bring it forth through Tolido’s to the masses. 

Douglas Tan, Co-founder of Tolido’s Espresso Nook

Besides being the co-founder, Douglas is also the head barista at Tolido’s. Over the years, the coffee enthusiast taught himself the art of making a good cup of joe.

Overcoming An Initial Lack Of Business Acumen

tolido's espresso nook
Image Credit: Tolido’s Espresso Nook

When Douglas first stepped into the F&B industry and began running Tolido’s, he was only 20 years old.

He admitted that the learning curve was steep, and he “did not have much business acumen” at the start. Thus, going out of his comfort zone to run a business was tough.

Even though he has definitely picked up many important skills along the years, he shared that even after seven years, running the business is still challenging.

When asked what were some of his greatest challenges whilst running the business, he said that “the fear of not breaking even” was always a worry.

However, even though he declined to reveal any figures, he said that the business has seen a constant growth trajectory over the years.

Besides that, the team behind Tolido’s has constantly innovated, especially to combat the effects of Covid-19.

For example, last December, the cafe launched its very own, limited edition, Spiced Orange Cold Brew Coffee.

To combat the long waiting time to get a seat at the cafe, the team also has an online presence, allowing eager customers to order in advance online to beat the queues.

Thus, despite the challenges which arose from the pandemic, Douglas is proud to say that Tolido’s has managed to “emerge stronger.”

Featured Image Credit: Daniel Food Diary / Tolido’s Espresso Nook



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