What do a gin garden bar in a former army barracks, Singapore’s first standalone rooftop bar, an American diner in the city’s first McDonald’s, and a hotel in a former godown where moonshine was made, all have in common? They are the passionately creative and astute products of the note-taking mind of Wee Teng Wen. The heir to a banking empire, Wee decided to carve out his own niche in the hospitality industry at the age of 25. The Managing Partner of the highly successful Lo & Behold Group, Wee is now at the helm of 13 restaurants, bars, and a hotel that are redefining an already saturated market.
The secret may be a combination of luck, hard work, and being mindful: “I’m a crazy note-taker. So everywhere I go, I’m filing away ideas that I can use, combine, adapt, or challenge in the future,” says the Wharton School graduate. For instance, Wee started a running list on his phone in 2009-10 about all the things he found interesting at the many hotels he stayed at and what left an impression—long before he became a hotelier and opened The Warehouse Hotel in 2017.
The former Boston-based strategy consultant believes it was his time in the U.S. that sowed the seeds of his present-day philosophies. “I worked in everything from pharmaceuticals and printing, to consumer goods and lifestyle. At its essence, what I did was try to help businesses solve their problems and improve. The role exposed me to a lot of different ways one could structure a business. For example, at The Lo & Behold Group, we look way beyond F&B and hospitality for inspiration. We think about how to create a company that people want to work for and attract people from industries outside of hospitality,” he explains. Wee is a people guy. It’s an aspect of the business that he keeps coming back to: “We treat our staff like family and hire people who are very passionate. I spend most of my time thinking about how to shape the company to be a place that people want to work.”
His desire to create exceptional experiences, he knows, would not thrive without a devoted staff. Thanks to his ability to use his passion to draw the right people, Wee has managed some pretty cool coups, such as getting acclaimed French chef Julien Royer to head his two-Michelin star restaurant Odette or celebrity chef Willin Low to create the menu at The Warehouse Hotel’s restaurant Po.
His other hobby, besides restoring and driving vintage cars—he has a Fiat 124 Coupe, a BMW 2002, and a Porsche 911—is challenging the status quo. Not only has he created incredibly unique hospitality spaces on the island nation, he also started an environmentally friendly dry-cleaning company called For The Love of Laundry with his younger brother Teng Chuen. With all these proverbial balls in the air, one wonders where Wee finds inspiration for so many creative projects that constantly need to be updated and refreshed. After 12 years in hospitality, Wee says, “Increasingly I find that ideas come to me in the absence of stimulation. I just came back from Tasmania and there was total peace. Maybe it’s how I’m evolving as a person.”