Cover Yenn Wong chats with Tatler about her secrets of success

Food and beverage industry veteran Yenn Wong knows a thing or two about running a successful dining empire. She chats with us about her path to success in Tatler’s inaugural Secrets of Success series: an all-access pass to the city’s most notable business magnates and entrepreneurs.

Singapore-born Yenn Wong has been running the restaurant game for the last 20 years. After launching Hong Kong based hospitality group JIA Group in 2010 with buzzy Italian eatery 208 Duecento Otto, Wong has since made her mark on the city’s dining scene with an array of popular Chinese, Thai, Italian, French and Spanish concepts, including Michelin-starred haunts Duddell’s and Louise, as well as Chachawan, Potato Head, Ando and the coffee shop Between.

JIA’s portfolio is rooted in style and authenticity and has earned both Wong and the company many accolades over the years, including the Rising Star Award for women in Asia by the Financial Times in 2009, Tatler Hong Kong’s Restaurateur of the Year in 2016 and Entrepreneur of the Year by Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability in 2017.

Instead of resting on her current success, Wong looks to the future with ambition and excitement for greater things to come for JIA. Here, she reveals what she attributes her success to, who her mentors are and which traits she looks for when she is building a team.

Describe what you do in one sentence.

I run an array of culinary concepts in Hong Kong under the umbrella of restaurant group, JIA Group. 

How does your business make a difference? 

JIA Group makes a difference because we place a huge focus on quality and have a keen eye for detail when it comes to execution. We pride ourselves on providing a range of gourmet experiences, from casual to fine dining—we like to provide something for everyone. 

What do you put your success down to?

I put my success down to passion, commitment, and not being afraid to fail. I believe it is essential to take risks in both business and in life—playing it safe is not something I like to do. Our concepts have aimed to satiate our customer's appetites throughout the years and deliver a visual feast, which I believe we have successfully achieved. Good food is what we know and what we do well. 

What are the top three ingredients for a successful business?

Similar to what I mentioned previously: passion, commitment and taking risks. 

Do you have any mentors? If so, who are they and what is the best piece of advice they have given you?

My role model would have to be my father. My dad told me to always be responsible for my work, family, peers and friends. It’s a piece of advice I have always kept with me. 

What qualities do you look for in a potential employee?

I always look for someone progressive. I also look for someone who is willing to listen and learn, and who is strong at execution. 

What has been your biggest career obstacle to date? How did you overcome it?

I have a habit of always thinking about work. Over the years, I have learnt I am much more effective and constructive if I take the time to switch off. I still have to remind myself of this every day, but I am much better at it now.

Do you have any business regrets? If so, what?

I would not say I have any business regrets. In my opinion, it is crucial to learn from the mistakes we make along the way. Mistakes allow us to grow. 

How do you plan to develop your business over the next five years?

As we look to develop JIA Group over the years, we will be more precise with our direction. With the way the world is now, it is vital to be mindful of the current situation and seek suitable opportunities.

What is one surprising thing about you that most people don’t know?

I pride myself on getting eight hours of sleep on average a night. Sleep is hugely important to me.