If Alexis Bauduin strikes you as a familiar figure, it might be that you have seen him pitting against some of the most brilliant business minds in the inaugural season of AXN’s The Apprentice Asia with Tony Fernandes in 2013.
Impressively, Alexis finished third out of some 30,000 applicants across Asia and he went on to work as the Head of Business Development for Tony Fernandes’ Caterham Group. “It was there where I experienced the hybrid of both the corporate and entrepreneurial world,” Alexis explains. “It was there where I found the motivation to kickstart my own business – YOLO.”
YOLO is a healthy food concept that promises to give your favorite Asian foods a healthy twist. With a focus on nutritious ingredients and a firm rejection of the use of MSG, YOLO gives its take on Asian dishes with signatures such as Green Curry Chicken with Brown Rice ($9.50) and Yakiniku Donburi with Kimchi Rice ($11.50). Their Western takes include signatures like Bolognese Beef Pasta with Garlic Mushroom ($10.50) and Herb Chicken Salad with Avocado, Tomatoes & Egg ($10.50).
If you’re the type who can’t decide what to eat every day – especially with the stay-home circuit breaker – YOLO offers 10-days and 30-days meal plan packages that you can subscribe to. The brand is also Halal-certified and they offer various gluten-free, vegetarian vegan and dairy-free options too.
1. What’s your story?
Alex: I was working for Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) as the Asia-Pacific Director for leading liquor brand Grand Marnier when I joined the inaugural season of AXN’s The Apprentice Asia with Tony Fernandes in 2013. I emerged third and also went on to work as the Head of Business Development for Tony Fernandes’ Caterham Group. It was there where I experienced the hybrid of both the corporate and entrepreneurial world and found the motivation to kickstart my own business – YOLO.
2. Why did you start YOLO?
Alex: Back when I was working at LVMH, I frequently dined out for business meetings, and, most times the food can be a little bit too rich or oily which isn’t very good for the body in the long run. I also realised that success for those restaurants came from their food, but also their atmosphere (look & feel, music) and their staff. Then I started looking into healthy eating and felt that despite offering food that is good for my body, it didn’t deliver in taste and experience level. It was not relatable to the average consumer and came as a compromise. That’s how YOLO came about! I wanted to make healthy more relatable to the masses without compromising on taste and experience.
3. How did you start the business?
Alex: Quality, good food has always been a key enjoyment for me but now, it has become the epicentre of my life. Since the opening of the first YOLO takeaway outlet at ICON VILLAGE in October 2015, the business of providing tasty and healthy good food to the masses, regardless of dietary needs and restrictions, has become my key mission.
It’s also my mission to stand at the forefront to lead a change in the public’s perception towards healthy food. I’d like to take a non-traditional approach to make eating healthy fun again. In addition to constantly improving and expanding the repertoire of food offerings, he regularly reinvents familiar Asian dishes with healthy ingredients, balanced nutrition, great taste and affordable prices. But to answer about the funding part, I started the business with one investor and myself, to keep it small and efficient. As the business grew, we opened a central kitchen and multiple restaurants, and this growth needed investment so we welcomed a few more investors in 2019. We are currently going through our Series A fundraise and will aggressively develop the business soon 🙂
4. What were your biggest challenges launching your F&B business?
Alex: Switching from a corporate environment to a start-up, I faced a few staffing issues as the F&B industry is one that has big human resources problems. I also underestimated the aspect of company culture, which is so important when you start, but also something that you kind of take for granted when you are in larger corporations. I spent a lot of effort to develop our employer branding to set the right foundations so we can keep staff more motivated and then longer in the company, because as everybody knows, staffing in the F&B industry is already tough!
5. Describe what is YOLO is all about.
Alex: YOLO is a platform that allows you to taste life without compromise. We take your favourite Asian foods and make them nutrition, wholesome and good for you! Our business is divided in three business units: 1/ YOLO Food, our restaurants (we have four, in Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar, Buenavista and Changi business Park) 2/ YOLO Meal Plan which is our meal plan delivery service, focusing on weight loss and wellness. We deliver freshly cooked food directly to people’s home and office. 3/ YOLO Mart, the latest baby of the family. We have developed our very own online grocery store, where you can purchase our famous proteins, sides, toppings, sauces, cooked sous-vide and vaccum-packed to last you between 5-14 days. You can heat and eat them at your convenience.
6. Why healthy food?
Alex: There is a clear and serious issue nutrition issue in Asia with the rapid growth of diabetes and obesity! But the problem is the way healthy food is being portrayed and served! When you think healthy food you often attribute it to salads, vegetarian food, but more generally, bland food that will be expensive and a big compromise on taste and what you love to eat. But this is not what it has to be, and I started YOLO to prove that you don’t have to compromise on what you love to eat to eat healthy! You can still eat your favourites, but cooked better, with more nutritious ingredients, while still keeping the flavour profile! This is what we do at YOLO, imagine eating curries, gong bao chicken w/ rice and getting all the benefits of healthy eating, which can translate to better weight management, improved energy levels, mood and focus.
7. What do you envision the future of healthy food to be in Singapore?
Alex: I think the segment is growing and will continue to grow as this is a reality, people will have to change the way they eat due to the diabetes crisis. So you will see more and more healthy food concepts, more supply of healthy produces, and you will also see the “lab to market” brands like Impossible Foods get healthier… But mark my words that people will eat very differently than they are today in 10-15 years’ time as the urgency to eat healthier will push the government to act more radically and promote it more intensively.
8. What is one health hack or tip you personally subscribe to in your own life?
Alex: There are a lot of health hacks that we provide, but in general, there are always related to the lifestyle goal you want to work on, like weight loss, clean eating etc… I say the basic of nutrition is to control your calories and make sure you don’t eat more calories than your body burns on a daily basis. Then, make sure to eat more protein because they fill you up more, so you end up eating less carbs (and therefore less sugar). A good indicator of the protein portion should be the size of your palm.
Another good tip that I have, especially for people who want to lose weight, is to drink 2-3L per day, and add slices of lemon in the water. It will fill you up (so you tend to eat less) but the lemon will boost your metabolism and allow you to burn more! Great hack 🙂
YOLO promo code for After Clinic Hours readers (2020)
YOLO is giving After Clinic Hours readers an exclusive 20% off their food orders via YOLO Meal Plan.
Promo code: BOOST20
Date of expiry: 30 June 2020
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Jolene lives for avo toasts, yoga and is a little more OCD than she cares to admit. She never fails to start her day with morning coffee and is very partial to flat whites. She is obsessed with interiors and homeware, and is currently taking her RYT 200h yoga teacher training course as an aspiring ashtangi.