Douglas Foo

Founder & Chairman

Sakae Holdings

2015

Entrepreneur Of The Year

Douglas Foo

Entrepreneur Of The Year

2015

Founder & Chairman

Sakae Holdings

About Douglas

Sakae Sushi is a Singapore-founded and based conveyer belt restaurant chain serving Japanese cuisine, catering to the low to mid-level pricing market. The menu offers sushi, sashimi, teppanyaki, yakimono, nabemono, tempura, agemono, ramen, udon, soba and donburi served a la carte or via conveyor belt.

The Sakae Sushi brand is the flagship business of listed-entity Apex-Pal International Ltd. The first outlet was opened in Raffles Place, Singapore in September 1997, and it is currently the largest kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi restaurant) Japanese restaurant chain in the country.

Today, there are more than a hundred Sakae Sushi outlets in Singapore, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States and Japan. The group also boasts an outstanding portfolio of brands – Sakae Teppanyaki, Sakae Delivery, Sakae Junior Club, Hei Sushi, Hei Delivery, Senjyu, Crepes & Cream, Sakae Express, Sachi and Nouvelle Events .
The company has instituted numerous programmes and undertaken many projects in several fields with which to display evidence of its commitment. It is these tangible demonstrations that have earned it the recognition as one of the most socially responsible companies worldwide.

There are special and specific initiatives designed to benefit marginalised stakeholders, mainly in society at large, that include the illiterate, the rural youth and even incarcerated persons. This is in addition to its comprehensive environmental policy that is applied to all its business groups across the world. With these two areas of good corporate citizenry, Tata Consultancy Services has established itself as a contributing member of the planet and a champion of the less fortunate, known forgood use of its profits. It has adopted the ‘triple bottom-line’ approach, recognising people, planet and profit as the primary pillars of corporate sustainability.
Foo is grateful for his exposure to positive values from a young age and he still holds the values from the mottos of his alma mater, Red Swastika School, ‘respect, magnanimity, trustworthiness and alertness’ and Dunman High School, ‘honesty, trustworthiness, moral courage and loyalty’, close to his heart.

It is with this credo that he also states that “entrepreneurship should not be seen as a way to simply earn profits. It should transcend money-making and should be for a greater good.” Like many successful entrepreneurs from around the world, Foo did not start up Sakae to make money, but rather, to solve a problem.

About 20 years ago, the visionary realized that whilst Singaporeans enjoyed consuming Japanese cuisine, many of them could not afford to indulge in it due to its high price, as Japanese food was traditionally served in high-end restaurants. T hus, he studied ways to bring Japanese food to the masses at inexpensive prices.
He succeeded in doing this through innovation, by researching, investing and introducing the conveyor-belt sushi system or kaiten-zushi. Today, Sakae Sushi has newer innovations such as sushi-making robots and portable conveyor belts for private dining events.

The astute businessman that he is, Foo is as passionate about branding as he is about cost savings. He believes that branding is not just about the product. He is insistent that branding also has to communicate with the soul and engage with people, both customers and staff. Behind every product, people still run the show. Foo believes that there are companies that offer good products, but fail to thrive due to dissatisfied staff who represent the company poorly, thus affecting people’s impression of the product. On the other hand, staff who are treated well automatically become a company’s brand advocators and supporters.

To Foo, it is imperative that life and business have meaning. In keeping with that belief, he infused meaning into the Sakae logo, where all parts of the logo symbolize his vision for the company. The eyes of the frog provide direction to Sakae with foresight, the smile represents smiling, good service, and the body and legs resemble gold ingots which signify prosperity. Together, all parts of the frog represent a united team of Sakae management and staff, working as one to bring the company forward. Fittingly, the name Sakae in Japanese means ‘development.’

In helping to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs, Foo challenges them to think about the role they want to play on the world stage. He believes that every young business person should seek answers to questions such as “What do you see yourself doing? What are your interests?” He believes it is good to plan and work towards goals early, even if a young entrepreneur is not sure of what he or she wants. Life is, after all, a continuous journey of self-discovery.

Finally, being the opportunistic entrepreneur who plans and looks forward to achieving a goal and providing a solution, Foo has said that he would one day like to expand operations into North Korea, because of the potential for effective monopoly in the region.

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