In the hustle and bustle of the Central Business District is a small cafe with a long line every lunch hour. Grain Traders, a cafe that just opened in September, is the go-to place for all near the CBD. Its simple yet sophisticated modern aesthetics and fun menu attracts all those who are looking for food that’s quick, easy, and delicious.
At Grain Traders, you get to put together your own meal in one bowl. You first select a type of grain, then protein, followed by two cold vegetables, one warm vegetable, with toppings and sauce on top. Though a familiar serving style that we see at any salad bar, their food is extraordinary. Made fresh right behind the counter, each dish is like a home-cooked meal with a twist.
In an exclusive interview, the founder of Grain Traders, Javier Perez, shares his story.
The Eye: What inspired you to start Grain Traders? What is your mission behind your business?
Javier: I’d been thinking about creating a fast-dining concept, but still serving up wholesome hearty meals, for quite some time. But it was only when Ken started work on a separate project in the central business district (CBD) that the time, season, and place aligned. So Ken had been observing the modern Singaporean worker and he kind of realized how tough it is to work in the CBD. Lunch can be quite a discouraging affair, sometimes out of takeaway boxes in meeting rooms. We wanted to provide a solution for these workers, and to make at least one small part of their work day wonderful.
Our mission at Grain Traders is to feed people right, and we’re not talking just about physically. We wanted to create a place where there was no compromise, that’s not just about the food, but the experience, and knowing that you’re not missing out on anything, be it nutrition, well-being, or social interaction. You only get about an hour off for lunch each work day, and we felt that it is the most important time of the day, so people should be able to spend it in the best way possible — by feeding themselves right, catching up with people, and simply taking a break from the daily grind by coming into a place where they can feel that they’re being taken care of.
The Eye: Recently, there has been a craze over “healthy” cafes/restaurants. What do you think are your unique characteristics that attracts so many customers?
Javier: We wouldn’t describe the food at Grain Traders as healthy. It’s not your typical eat clean, low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free etc. kind of thing. Although we do have some of those options, that’s not our main focus. At Grain Traders we serve slow food, real fast: making quality and hearty food, but dishing it out cafeteria-style for the time-pressed worker.
If you were to describe our food as healthy, it’s only because we feel that the food that’s best for people is food that is practically homemade — with a lot of time, love, effort, and care.
We went through a lot of rounds of experimenting, tasting, and tweaking to come up with the final dishes you see here at Grain Traders, and although it’s a mix-and-match concept, it was also important to us and our chef, Gisela, that every single component could stand on its own. We’re definitely hoping to be able to add new items on the menu every few seasons, in the near future perhaps, but for now, the menu will stay as it is.
The Eye: Grain Traders has a systematic way of ordering food – buffet style but with designated food categories (grain, protein, vegetables). Why did you decide to do it this way?
Javier: As mentioned, a lot of our customers are people who work in the CBD who don’t have a lot of time on their hands. We’re taking the idea of fast food — where you queue up, pick what you want, and pay for it, really quickly — but also bringing them the quality and standard of food that you’d usually only expect from proper sit-down restaurants. It’s a system that most people are kind of familiar with — think of your usual salad bars, or more locally, the cai fan (fried rice) or mixed dish rice stalls you see at hawker centres and food courts.
We think that this allows people to see everything we have on offer, and it really gives them an idea of the variety and freshness of our food, especially with our open kitchen right behind the food counter. You get to see, smell, and hear your food being prepared right in front of you.
The only disadvantage of this system is that sometimes people get spoilt for choice when they see everything on display and take extra time deciding what they want to order!
The Eye: Any future plans? How do you vision your business grow?
Javier: We’re looking to offer delivery services in the coming months. Even though we already offer takeaways, we hope that this delivery service can help us to reach people who aren’t working so close to CapitaGreen, where Grain Traders is located. We’re also hoping to open a more outlets in Singapore, around the island, and then we’re definitely hoping to expand regionally as well. But that’s some time down the road.
We’ve also got a couple of exciting campaigns coming up, in line with feeding people right, and doing things right. Beyond feeding the CBD worker, there’s so many other people in need that we want to reach out to as well, so keep an eye out for that.
Feed yourself right. Take advantage of your lunch hour and catch up with your friends, family over a good hearty meal. Next upcoming no school weekday, head on down to Grain Traders and enjoy a very filling and satisfactory bowl that is worth every cent.
138 Market Street, #01-01/02/03 CapitaGreen, 048946
Monday to Friday: 8AM – 8PM
Closed Saturday & Sunday