Going with the Flow
If you ever attended a wedding or business event in Bangkok a few years ago, the chances are you would have been faced with a drinks menu that was limited to wine, beer – usually Singha, and a choice of whiskey mixes. In fact, this tried and tested format would have continued ad nauseum if it hadn’t been for the introduction of a drinks company that shook event organisers out of their reverie. Welcome onto the scene Flow Cocktail, a cocktail consulting company set up by Nonthiwat ‘Ning’ Prabhananda, Chanond Purananda, and two other friends who themselves had become indifferent to drinks served at the many events taking place throughout Thailand at the time. Having experienced similar events in Singapore, Hong Kong and further afield in Australia and the UK, where the drinks were much more sophisticated, they decided it was time for Thais to have a taste of the future.
“We were very successful with Flow Cocktail and we really did fuel the change in the cocktail culture and market in Thailand. We encouraged people to enjoy and explore every type of cocktail with our events. We actually helped move events from providing only the basic choice of drinks to exciting and delicious cocktails and exotic finger foods. If you happened to attend any events prior to 2006, you will know what I am talking about,” says Ning.
Thanks to the success that they enjoyed supplying advice to numerous events, people kept asking Ning and his friends to open a bar where everyone could enjoy creative cocktails and innovative food every day of the week. So, around mid 2009, he and his partners began exploring the possibilities of setting up a restaurant and bar as Flow did not have a permanent place.
But having a stake in the fast-changing F&B segment in Bangkok is a risky business that not everyone is suited to. Having watched his parents separately build their own companies from a young age, Ning says that he probably inherited their entrepreneurship skills. Further adding to his business savvy, were the years he spent completing his Master’s Degree in Business in Boston, USA and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation studies he more or less accidentally fell into.
“We met with Chef Ian Kittichai and Chef Peter Pitakwong, two Thai chefs who had just returned from New York City and they agreed to join us. Now we had a specialised drink and entertainment service and a bold and creative food service that we could take to the market. It was then that we decided to open our own place on Ruam Rudee called Hyde and Seek – ‘Hyde’ because the bar is similar to a London pub and ‘seek’ because people would have to find us as our entrance is hidden behind a big wall. You could say we took inspiration from the UK, New York and Bangkok.
“We have always been very innovative in our approach to dining and over the years we have introduced several new concepts such as gastro dining, comfort food and sous-vide cooking techniques for our Thai and expat diners to enjoy. I believe it is this forward-looking approach that has stood us in good stead and allowed us to surpass the typical lifespan of a Bangkok restaurant. We strive for excellent quality across all elements: food, drinks, service, and ambience.
“We use social media to reach out to our audience. We spend perhaps 30% of our advertising budget on traditional print media and the remainder goes to social and digital media platforms. We love getting feedback from our customers, it is very important to us that we remain so close.
“I think nowadays there are so many people looking to open a new bar or restaurant. I’d say I’ve had invited to at least 200 in the last two years alone. It’s a little bit like mushrooms popping up all over the place. If you really want to succeed in this business you must have an eye for detail. You have to be detail-oriented person, to pay attention to all elements, and to understand to your customers,” advises Ning.