They’ve Got Soul: The Soul Society Group On Building Their Restaurants Around Family Life
Despite being the proprietors, no task at The Soul Society Group is too small for the Choo family. "I still remember seeing dad scrub SOULed Out’s floors," reveals Brian Choo. "Meanwhile, mum always took it upon herself to get the party started by wielding the microphone."
Fred Choo and Michele Kwok, the dynamic duo whom he speaks of, founded the Soul Society Group which encompasses the SOULed Out franchise, Tujo, WIP and Hubba Hubba. The longest-running of the bunch, SOULed Out is pretty much the family’s second home.
The boys are intrinsically drawn to the family business, mostly for sentimental reasons. Currently chief operating officer (COO) of the group, Brian fondly recalls the novelty of being allowed to stay out late with his parents on Friday nights.
"I’ve been involved in SOULed Out since I was eight, waiting tables by the time I was 13," he says. "Mark was only four when we opened, so SOULed Out has basically been around all his life." Inspired by his parents' acumen when it comes to personalised services and prioritising customers, Mark built his own fitness empire (Tribe Boxing Studio and Cirque Fitness Studio) upon these same pillars.
Both a mother and a friend to her boys, Kwok enjoys seeing Soul Society's clientele widen over the years to include her children’s friends. She credits their restaurants' ageless appeal to the family’s close-knit relations.
"Mark and Brian bring fresh ideas to the table," acknowledges Michele. "It’s important to tap into the ideas of different generations." A creative to the core, Kwok is receptive to F&B trends and fresh concepts. Recently, the group engaged the help of celebrity chef Sapna Anand to develop new Indian dishes for SOULed Out’s fusion menu.
Outside of their nuclear family, the foursome say that their loyal customer base constitutes one huge extended family. The restaurant group prides itself on being part and parcel of their guests' birthday celebrations and memories of growing up. According to Kwok, a hospitable environment isn't so much about the venue, but the people who make it, from the chefs to the kitchen staff and the regulars turned friends.
This feature was originally published in the 2021 Tatler Dining Guide.
- PhotographyKhairul Imran/Tatler Malaysia