After four years, Dennis Chew, 48, and Chew Chor Meng, 53, are taking their hawker chain 888 Mookata to the next level. Despite suffering a “big drop in business in the past year”, the actors have invested a six-figure sum to open their first restaurant outlet, 888 Mookata Bistro, in Changi Village.

The 50-seat “Thai-style” eatery is slated to open end-December near popular dining spot Supper Club 89.7. Dennis tells it will feature indoor and outdoor seating, and “bright and vibrant furnishings and decor” as they want “people to feel happy once they enter [their] bistro.”

The Chews currently have three kopitiam stalls in Hougang, Bishan, and Tampines. Their food court stall at industrial complex T-Space, also in Tampines, will shut at the end of the year when the lease is up. “We could not reach an agreement with the landlord regarding rental,” explains Dennis. 

Like most F&B businesses, 888 Mookata’s business has been badly hit by a series of dining restrictions. They shut down their outlets temporarily during the dine-in bans this year (Thai barbecue doesn’t fare well via takeaway), and though there was a slight improvement with the two-pax rule, they were still “struggling”.

“It was only when the government expanded dine-in options to five pax [for a brief period after P3HA] that business picked up. We hope more coffee shops will allow dining in groups of five soon,” opines Dennis. Currently, the coffee shops they are situated in do not allow dining in for groups of up to five people from different households.

Nevertheless, they are forging ahead with their expansion plans.

The Love 972 DJ says it has always been their plan to open a restaurant. In fact, if it weren’t for the pandemic, they would have taken the leap a year ago.

“We started out in coffee shops, then food court, so opening a restaurant is the next phase for us. It’s like a natural progression,” says Dennis.

“We have always been looking for a suitable space, but they are hard to come by. So when Chor Meng happened to see the listing for this shop space in November, we quickly grabbed it. We signed the lease within a week.”

Being in Changi Village will also allow them tap on the supper crowd, for which the area is known. “We intend to open from 3pm to 2am. And if business is good, we could even extend our operating hours,” says Dennis.