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Ya Kun Kaya Toast - jammed
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  Ya Kun Kaya Toast - jammed
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
by Adeline Chong
June 9, 2008

Charcoal-grilled toast spread with kaya (coconut egg jam) is to Singaporeans what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is to Americans. And many people would agree that no one does kaya toast better in Singapore than the people at Ya Kun.

Taking its name from its founder, Ah Koon (Ya Kun is the Romanized version of “Ah Koon” in Chinese), the Ya Kun Kaya Toast company had its humble beginnings as a standalone coffee stall in Singapore’s business district in 1944. Ah Koon’s offerings then were simple: kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and strong coffee. But Ah Koon built his stall’s reputation on good service, his wife’s fragrant, homemade kaya, and coffee he painstakingly brewed using his own recipe.

Today, Ya Kun is run by Ah Koon’s children. But it is no longer a one-stall business, having grown to 30 outlets in Singapore, with a presence in six other Asian countries. To its credit, Ya Kun has tried to retain the traditional feel of its first coffee stall by furnishing its outlets, wherever possible, with charming old-school wooden stools and tables. Menu-wise, nothing much has changed, save for additions such as ice-blended drinks to cater to today’s fads.

Visit the Ya Kun Kaya website though, and you will find it, um, as dry as toast.

The home page starts off interestingly enough, showing three posters done in the style of vintage French posters. One carries the cheeky headline, “Screw the French press, we’ve got the sock.” The hand of the younger generation of owners is evident here, as you would hardly expect old Ah Koon to dream up such posters. Here, the company could have provided an insight into Yakun’s traditional method of making coffee using a cheesecloth strainer shaped like a long sock. The posters are clever but incongruous with the staid, corporate feel of the website—which has maroon-colored page borders and offers the usual corporate information of "History," "Vision & Mission," "Accolades" and such.

Granted, a heartwarming story of Ya Kun’s history is in the "Genesis of Ya Kun" section. Photographs show Ya Kun’s early days in Telok Ayer Basin and of Ah Koon preparing coffee and toast. However, the blurry photographs used hardly do justice to the story, and might have been better used in a slideshow or even just displayed in a larger size.

The sections on Ya Kun’s menu and Ya Kun kaya also do not seem to have been given much thought. The photographs are simply not appealing to the eye. Visit almost any food blogger’s website and you are likely to find far more attractive photographs.

This is where one of Ya Kun’s competitors, Killiney Kopitiam, does one better. It has a glossary on its Menu page that explains its signature dishes and what goes into its kaya—very useful if you have never tried it!

Ya Kun Kaya Toast - jammed One of Ya Kun’s stated missions is to “Perpetuate its belief that a good toast can bind kinship, friendship and partnership.” While the reference to “a good toast” is slightly corny, the statement is amply supported by the fact that Ya Kun’s outlets do see a constant stream of customers throughout the day—from families enjoying their Sunday breakfast together, to friends chatting over a coffee, to business partners sealing deals over a plate of kaya toast. Including quotes from customers and photographs of happy diners enjoying their meal at Ya Kun might have added some appeal and helped to support this mission statement. A shortened version of the statement, “The toast that binds…kinship, friendship, partnership,” is used as a tagline on the site. A good move, but once again not capitalized on, as it only appears on the browser’s tabs.

There aren’t any news releases in the site’s "Press Statements" section. Instead, the section carries newspaper articles on the company. An opportunity to inform is once again lost as the articles are too small to read as they are, and were not saved in PDF format to enable visitors to click through to read them.

The "Franchise" section is quite comprehensive, though, giving you an idea who Ya Kun’s main target audience is. Here, interested parties can download a Franchise Enquiry Form in PDF format.

One can’t help but leave Ya Kun’s website hungry for more. It’s a good thing that a visit to an actual Ya Kun outlet satisfies every time.


Adeline Chong enjoys Ya Kun’s kaya toast dipped into soft-boiled eggs and washed down with strong milky coffee.

*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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Ya Kun Kaya Toast - jammed
 The website is not fancy, but can communicate on what the brand stands for. As what Adeline pointed out, the treatment on the picture is not good enough, and particularly the food listed in menu part are not big and sharp enough to see the difference. There are opportunites for Ya Kun to expand its territories, such as in China, Macau and Hong Kong 
Richard Lo, Consultant - June 9, 2008
 I agree with Ms Adeline Chong's comments.

In general, it was a half-hearted effort which could have gone the distance. My take, being inexperienced nonetheless, is that should companies decide to use the web, they should go all out.

The moment you put yourself on the web is putting yourself up for critique.

What do I mean half-hearted effort on the Ya Kun Website?

- The pictures used on the main page are of low resolution.
- Further, the page on "Locations" looks like what primary school students might do for their school project.

Coming from Singapore, this is a tad bit disappointing. People at Ya Kun must believe that their website is not just a corporate "tick-in-the-box" but rather a place to truly sell their brand. 
Nicholas Foo, Student, University of Warwick - June 9, 2008
 I think it's well known that the 3 "vintage" posters were done by Leo Burnett as spec work without participation by Ya Kun. That probably explains why they don't fit with anything else the company does. Overall, design isn't really Ya Kun's strong point, but then they do make a mighty fine cup of coffee, so all is forgiven. 
Marc - June 9, 2008
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