E-scooters are typically considered to be one of the more innovative inventions for cities to become smart cities. A while back when it was safer to go out, I decided to try 2 different brands on actual roads, and I’m glad to report I emerged unscathed.
While the overall experience seems fun, the thought of riding it on Klang Valley roads for your first time may drive some people away. Education is one major key to increasing adoption though, and so e-scooter company Starwheels has stepped up to the occasion, albeit with a less conventional method for it—by opening a café.
“The use of EVs is still not popular in Malaysia yet, hence we wanted to make them more approachable and affordable for Malaysians,” Charlene Too, MD of Starwheels Café & Bistro, shared with Vulcan Post.
Not your regular café
Located on the second floor of Emporis Kota Damansara, a serviced apartment, their café is an extension of Starwheels Electronic which specialises in electric scooters and bikes.
Though they have multiple outlets with showrooms around the country, this is their first-ever showroom that’s inside an F&B establishment.
“Our aim is to combine the concept of green lifestyle into café culture,” Charlene explained, and it seems like they are hopping on the Western and Japanese fusion café food trend as well.
Even if you don’t buy a drink or a meal, you’re still allowed to test ride the e-scooters in the building’s corridors, which judging by their Instagram stories, look quite spacious and breezy.
The riders will be supervised by their staff and there are no time limits for each test ride, allowing each guest to take their time in exploring the technology.
Editor’s Note: We clarified with the café that it’s only open for takeaways and deliveries during this lockdown. No test rides of the e-scooters are allowed over this period.
F&B with a side of experiential learning
There’s no denying how saturated and competitive the café scene is in Malaysia, even with the cuisine they’re choosing to serve.
Although Charlene is aware of this, she’s also confident that their café stands out a little more because of its unique concept—having e-scooters and e-bikes you can test ride for free.
Moreover, she also noticed that there are limited cuisine choices in the serviced apartment as well, especially Japanese. From what I found, it appears that the apartment mainly has Malay food, so Starwheel’s establishment is quite advantageous.
On their menu, there are rice bowls, hotpot, ramen, pasta, breakfast platters, smoothies, coffee, etc., providing a neat variety for families that cannot settle on one cuisine when dining out.
Though many of their riders are first-timers, they haven’t received any complaints from neighbouring businesses so far about their e-scooters being a nuisance to them and passersby. In fact, some neighbouring customers and workers were even interested enough to try them out for themselves.
Using food to sell e-scooters
Because they only launched the café in late March 2021, most of their customers actually did takeaways instead of dining in, hence there weren’t too many customers who were able to try out their EVs.
So far, only 2 e-scooters have been sold since the opening of their café. On their site, the average price for their e-scooters ranges from RM1K to RM2K, but of course, there are the more expensive ones that cost around RM5K to RM6.5K. Because this is almost like another Starwheels showroom, they don’t have plans to charge riders yet.
While they’re familiar with selling e-scooters, Charlene confessed, “Our team doesn’t have enough marketing experience in F&B, and we felt that we wasted our budget on promoting our café because of this.”
“During our opening, we didn’t utilise the chance to promote our food menu and loyalty plans, which has caused us to miss out on the opportunity to build up our customer base and share our café concept,” she explained.
To keep things fun for customers though, Charlene highlighted that they’re always updating the display EV models in their café, so no model will permanently be there.
Currently, they host their most popular and latest models such as the EBike Star Hopper Hybrid, EBike Star Hopper Plus, and Starspeed Plus, and more.
“We aim to become the region’s community place for those who want to know more about e-scooters, e-bikes, service and repair, customisation, as well as safety and events,” she concluded to Vulcan Post, and added that they plan to host community events for that once it’s safer to do so.
For now, it seems that Starwheels’ venture into F&B is a learning experience for the team themselves, and their focus still remains on their core business and what they do best: promoting an e-scooter and e-bike culture in Malaysia.
Featured Image Credit: Charlene Too, MD of Starwheels Café & Bistro