Sticking to classic Indonesian street-food recipes and keeping the business in the family is how Rickshaw Republic has maintained success—and a loyal customer following. One of the first Indonesian restaurants to stake its claim in Chicago, you’ll not only leave satisfied but you’re likely to have learned something about the region where the recipes are from—Palembang in South Sumatra.
In honor of Taste of Groupon we thought we’d spotlight some of the awesome restaurants using Breadcrumb who have found success with their unique ideas and perspectives on how to make it in this industry. We took some time to chat with Oscar Setiwan, co-owner and the son of chef Elice Setiwan (mother), to talk about Rickshaw, what makes it successful and why mom is always right.
When did you know you wanted to be in the restaurant industry?
My mom has been a chef for awhile but we hadn’t owned a restaurant until two years ago. I knew I wanted to do this in order to help my mom’s dream come alive. Prior to Rickshaw Republic, she worked at a high school kitchen, opened a catering business, and worked at a small fast-food counter place in Boston, so we’ve always been involved in the food business.
How did the idea for Rickshaw Republic come about?
We sat down with the family and it was the right timing—our finances were good and we found a place for the restaurant. There are also no Indonesian restaurants in Chicago so we felt it was the perfect opportunity.
What does it take to be a chef?
- Passion about food and working hard to perfect your craft
- Ability to learn as you go
- Perseverance—never give up
What’s your favorite dish and recipe?
Beef Rendang: A beef curry that’s very popular in Indonesia with over 27 spices and braised overnight. We Only use the freshest ingredients so it’s very prep-heavy. If you have the time, check out our recipe and give it a shot at home!
What’s the most common kitchen mistake you’ve seen over the years?
Trying to put too many items on the menu at the sacrifice of quality. We started with the most authentic, select dishes. You want to start small and go from there, train staff, etc. Newer restaurants should open with a smaller menu and go from there. You have to master select items. Specializing in a few items is really good—that’s what people are looking for and what you become known for.
Is it complicated to run a business with your family?
The good part is that we have known each other for a long time—we know each other’s likes and dislikes, avoiding a lot of common problems that new partners encounter. Our arguments are how to serve the customers the right way—my mom is more traditional, I’m more modern—but we end up coming up with great solutions. We also get a lot of feedback from customers and try to incorporate it within reason. It’s ultimately up to us how we want to serve it even if it’s a 100-year-old recipe. Most fights I lose to my mom. She knows the food.
What are your thoughts on the recent responses to picky customers from restaurant owners, such as Mission Chinese Food’s use of MSG and SO Restaurant’s infamous “We don’t give a sh*% about gluten free” rant?
The customer needs to understand what caused that to happen. For example, we do have several options for gluten-free or peanut-free; we can accommodate but I do understand. Some restaurants draw from a recipe that’s 100 years old and they want to execute that item. Some food can be accommodated but it won’t be good. It’s important to stay authentic, because it’s served this way. If you’re allergic, we recommend different items that could work. We want to represent the authenticity of the food we serve. It’s very different than a diner where food is made -to -order.
What does the future hold for Rickshaw?
We were talking about opening a second location but it would probably be a different concept. Probably a different name but still revolving around our roots.
Why do you choose Breadcrumb?
It’s a revolutionary POS system. Breadcrumb takes all of the extra hassle out. It’s in a tablet we can carry around and I love it because we can show customers how tech-savvy we are. Waitresses can walk around with it and put the order in the tablet and it looks really cool in the front of house.
On the backend, Breadcrumb saves us hours and hours of work reconciling. It’s all in one in Breadcrumb HQ. It also helps me in planning for the future. I can see what the most popular items are, what aren’t, and why…how many mistakes we’ve made on any given night and we have the numbers to back it up.
Interested in learning more about why Oscar uses Breadcrumb? Visit us for more information on Breadcrumb’s iPad cloud-based point of sale system at Breadcrumbpos.com.