August 3, 2018

In this series, we explore the different forms and facets of love that exist in this world. Some may be more straightforward, while others can’t be easily defined. But love holds no boundaries and the celebration of the human heart should be captured with richness, colour and dimension.

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Gan Guoyi, 34, Hospitality Director & Hui Nan Lim, 35, F&B Owner

What do you remember about the first time meeting each other?

GUOYI: My husband, Indra Kantono and I first met a guy named Howard Lo at one of our bars, Jigger & Pony. One night, we thought that he would be good company, and it just so happened that a friend of ours was with him. So we went over to meet them at Spiffy Dapper and that’s where I met Nan, who turned out to be Howard’s wife.

HUI NAN: Yes! I was heavily pregnant at that time.

GUOYI: I remember dragging her from Spiffy Dapper to Orihara and we had loads of drinks.

HUI NAN: I must clarify that I didn’t drink any alcohol that night but I stayed till around 1 a.m.?

GUOYI: We went home when the bar closed.

How about first impressions?

GUOYI: We got along quite quickly.

HUI NAN: Yeah, Guoyi is very friendly and bubbly…

GUOYI: I thought that Nan was fun to hang out with and it’s nice to connect with someone who is in the same industry, although we have different styles of businesses.

HUI NAN: Our very first conversation was about POS (Point of Sale) [laughs]. It was rare to meet a fellow F&B operator who is so involved in the day-to-day operations.

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How would you describe Guoyi to others? 

HUI NAN: She is like an Energizer Bunny—I have no idea how she does what she does.

How would you describe Nan to others?

GUOYI: She is my go-to person when I need to figure out how to take care of things. When I had a miscarriage, Nan came over to my house immediately and told me what I needed to do. She really looked after me.

How would you define your relationship?

GUOYI: Well, our husbands are ‘married’ to each other [laughs].

HUI NAN: Guoyi is like a sister to me. I have never been close to my siblings… so to have someone with whom I can share my struggles with… it’s very hard for me to open up to people.

GUOYI: She’s like family. We don’t make plans. I would simply ask her: “What are you doing? Can I come over now?” Even when we have problems, we would text one another and say, “I had a bad day, I really need a drink.” And no matter what, we will always be there for one another.

HUI NAN: As business owners, sometimes we may face highly sensitive issues at work, and I know that I can share my struggles with Indra and Guoyi, and it stays within our circle. It’s really great to have a support network.

GUOYI: Actually, I see Nan more often than my real family… even though they live 5 minutes away.

HUI NAN: [laughs] Yeah, I would spend my Sundays with you.

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What do you value the most in your relationship?

GUOYI: When you grow older, you don’t value being friends with everyone. You value the friends who are sincere and real. With Nan, we are at this stage where… you know when you first meet your boyfriend, you would make an effort to doll up?

HUI NAN: That was kind of like our first trip together! [laughs]

GUOYI: I forced them to come on a beach holiday with Indra and I [laughs]. I found out later on that she hates sand.

HUI NAN: Howard and I were enamoured with them, so we decided to go. However, we weren’t that close at that point in time, where we could be totally honest. I really hate sand in between my toes, and the villa that we were staying in had an open beachfront, which was such a nightmare. But I told myself that I had to go through with it. By the time we went on our second vacation together, everything was out on the table.

You totally made an effort.

HUI NAN: I think Howard did something for Indra too.

GUOYI: I can’t remember, but we went around looking for baby formula for Henry (Nan’s first child).

HUI NAN: Coming back to your question, I value how open we can be with each other—even if we may say something not pleasing, I know that it always comes from a place of love.

How long have you been best friends?

HUI NAN: Slightly over 3 years.

Was it something that happened organically or was it instantaneous?

GUOYI: It just happened, I guess.

HUI NAN: Actually, how did we start hanging out? There’s also a lot of apprehension whether you will… and the fear of rejection… how did we get past that?

Yeah, who made the first move?  

HUI NAN: I feel like it would have been Guoyi.

GUOYI: To be honest, sometimes I ask myself that question. Initially, Nan and I had our own chat group, while Howard and Indra had theirs. Eventually, we started a group chat on Facebook Messenger called “Kanto-Lo” by combining our husbands’ last names together. The reason why we use Facebook Messenger is because Howard is obsessed with it.

HUI NAN: When you opened Flagship, I think that was what did it—because we loved going there a lot. You guys lured us in with whisky! You and Indra are such a conniving couple! Because Howard and I would have date nights at Humpback, and split up after that—he would go to Flagship, while I would go to Gibson. By the end of the night, we would meet back at Flagship.

Based on your MBTI, both of you have completely different personality types. How are you most alike and how are you different?

HUI NAN: I am highly introverted, and Guoyi is extremely extroverted. But I think that’s why we get along because Guoyi would bring me out of my shell.

GUOYI: We are very similar in terms of how we handle our work, and our approach towards people.

HUI NAN: We tend to be emotionally invested in people, but we are also very firm with our practices. I must say that Guoyi and Indra inspired us to strive for excellence and tighten up our core values.

GUOYI: I learnt cost management from them.

HUI NAN: Oh yeah. FoodRazor is the best thing ever! Howard is very techie, so he’s probably the first to adopt anything.

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Was there a time where you felt disappointed or that she had let you down?

 HUI NAN: Actually, there was a time when I let Guoyi down. As a problem solver, I’m always offering solutions. But maybe sometimes, people don’t want to hear solutions. They just want you to be there and lend a listening ear.

GUOYI: Yeah, I had a disagreement with Indra and I was so angry. The next day, I told Nan that I didn’t want to hear her solutions. Perhaps I would be more open to hearing them if I were in a different mental state. Another incident was when we were both quarrelling with our husbands when we tried to plan our first “Kanto-Lo” Christmas party.

HUI NAN: Oh my god, yes. Indra and I are quite similar when we throw a party for our friends; we go all out for them because we believe that they deserve the best. Indra wanted to spend a lot of money on wines and I wanted to put together the best cheese platter ever.

GUOYI: We both got into trouble with our husbands, so Nan gave me advice not to quarrel with Indra over the wines.

HUI NAN: There was a lot of tension. If you think planning a wedding is difficult, wait till you plan a Christmas party with another couple.

Name one annoying thing about each other.

HUI NAN: I can’t think of any.

GUOYI: I am annoyed that my husband gets irritated by the cats when we go over to their home.

HUI NAN: Indra really hates cats. But he would come over to hang out with us—that shows how much he loves Howard.

GUOYI: Sometimes Nan gets obsessive like when she was in her Pokémon phase. But that was short-lived. Mid-conversation, she would pause to say: “I need to catch this Pokémon now.”

HUI NAN: I will be here forever, but the Pokémon won’t be though [laughs]. 

Do you have a secret weapon that you use to cheer each other up?

GUOYI: Company.

HUI NAN: By the way, we don’t talk on the phone.

GUOYI: Yeah, we have never called each other.

Are you serious?

GUOYI: We only chat on Facebook Messenger.

HUI NAN: For the longest time, we didn’t have each other’s mobile numbers.

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What makes Nan laugh the most then?

HUI NAN: I don’t even know the answer to that question myself. 

GUOYI: Ummm… maybe the four of us together? Another one would be when Nan is not with her kids and her parents send a video of Henry saying something or doing something.

What do you think bothers Guoyi the most?

HUI NAN: When her SOPs are not being followed. We try not to hang out at her bars so much because she will get into work mode, which I totally understand because I am like that too. But we are both working towards supporting each other in terms of not micromanaging when it comes to service.

Don’t you spend a lot of time at each other’s outlets?

GUOYI: We do—sometimes at Standing Sushi Bar and Tanuki Raw too.

HUI NAN: Yeah, she works a lot and even rosters herself to serve customers. I don’t work on the ground unlike her; only at the start when we are setting up a new outlet. It takes so much energy to do all the shifts. We go to her spots just so that we can see her.

What would be a deal-breaker in terms of your friendship?

GUOYI: If they adopted another 4 cats [laughs].

HUI NAN: [laughs] I am sorry to break it to you but you know that spare room which is perpetually locked…

GUOYI: If Nan moved to Florida! Touch wood.

What do you think you can do to be a better friend? 

HUI NAN: Listen more.

GUOYI: Sometimes when we are listening to their dilemmas, I feel like people don’t like to hear about their problems. For example, I know we like to overanalyse each other’s businesses. I smacked Indra on the head when he went on and on about your counter at The World is Flat.

HUI NAN: It’s good to have Indra’s point of view, as that was the first time we operated a kiosk. We know that when we ask for a feedback, we will get an unbridled answer and it is not sugar-coated. Sometimes in order to improve, you need to hear the hard truths. When we set up our bars, we would sit down together and go through our floor plans with them. Those are things that you don’t usually share with anyone.

If you could change one thing about Nan, what would it be and why?

GUOYI: I wouldn’t want to change anything about her.

HUI NAN: Me too. I wouldn’t want to change anything about Guoyi. Oh no, are we super boring?

GUOYI: How about the both of us not working so much?

What do you love the most about Guoyi?

HUI NAN: I love her positivity, because that’s something I fall short of. I am always the worst-case-scenario kind of person and she’s exceedingly positive in any situation. It just baffles me.

What do you see in her, that she doesn’t see in herself?

HUI NAN: Her use of “their” in place of “they are” in our messages! It’s probably a case of autocorrect gone wrong, but that drives me absolutely nuts.

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Do you believe in the notion of ‘Best Friends Forever’?

HUI NAN: No, I don’t. I think there is a time and season for everything.

GUOYI: I do. For example, I have a childhood friend who I have known since I was 12. Every year, he remembers my birthday—and vice versa.

HUI NAN: That is what Facebook is for. It also helps me remember my wedding anniversary.

GUOYI: We meet up twice a year. I definitely don’t see him often, but we will help each other whenever we can. I am not best buds with him, but time shouldn’t affect a friendship.

HUI NAN: I have a very different definition. For me, my circle of friends will always be very small. There will be friends whom I am not in contact with for months, but I know the minute I see them, it’s as though we were never apart. I also recognise that over time, people’s life goals will change and it is inevitable that when you do not share the same views or struggles, you can’t relate to one another, and you will start drifting apart… I don’t think you can avoid that, so I am going to appreciate what I have now.

Are you afraid that one day you will not be in each other’s lives?

GUOYI: It has never crossed my mind.

HUI NAN: Me too.

GUOYI: I am going to be Heather’s godmother, right?

HUI NAN: But Indra doesn’t believe in the concept of a godmother. I asked Guoyi to be my daughter’s godma, so we shall see…