RISTORANTE da Valentino, one of the biggest Italian restaurants in Singapore, relocated to The Grandstand (formerly called Turf City) in early August. It was one of the first F&B anchor tenants to open there since Cogent Land Capital took over as the master tenant in March.
The restaurant had been located off Rifle Range Road from 2005 until July this year. Its former premises had a total area of about 7,000 sq ft, according to Valentino Valtulina, the owner of the family-run establishment. "It was in three different units and was therefore quite difficult to manage," he says.
Valtulina, who is also the executive chef of the restaurant, has a loyal following, with the majority of his customers being regulars. "I started my business eight years ago, and I've always been on the frontline, so I've established relationships with a lot of people," he says. One of his regular customers is none other than Benson Tan, the CEO of Cogent Land Capital. A frequent patron of Valentino's restaurant when it was at Rifle Range, Tan invited Valtulina to inspect the site at The Grandstand shortly after he took over as a master tenant.
Even though Valtulina wasn't looking to move, "the opportunity came and I took it", he says. "Over here [at The Grandstand], there's plenty of parking space, nice greenery, a spacious area for al fresco dining, so everything works together." It also helped that the 10,000 sq ft that the restaurant occupies are all in one area, which makes it a lot more efficient to manage, he notes.
Valtulina invested S$1.8 million in designing and fitting out the restaurant and the kitchen. "We have to work very hard, but I didn't take a loan, so that's a positive thing," he says. The biggest challenge for him currently is finding the right people. He has increased his headcount at the new restaurant from 40 to 50, but he is looking to hire more.
His whole family — parents, sister and brother-in-law — are involved in the business. Business was very difficult during the first three months, admits Valtulina. "But now, it's okay." On weeknights, he gets about 135 diners a night, and on weekends, the number can be as high as 200. The only challenge is weekday lunch, from Mondays to Thursdays, when typically there are 30 to 40 people. However, on Fridays and weekends, the place is usually packed.
"But for any new business, the first year is always a challenge," says Valtulina philosophically. "When more tenants move in and the whole place is operational, business should pick up."
This story first appeared in The Edge Singapore weekly edition of Dec 3-9, 2012.
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