Sandy Monteiro: Serving up a different recipe for success

The founder of Sandwich chain Rebel Gurl is challenging traditional notions of how an F&B business should be run

Launched last year, Rebel Gurl is a Singapore-based Sandwich Bar franchise that is tossing out the rule book and forging its own path towards becoming a sustainable business. For instance, it offers its staff a chance to share up to 30% of an outlet’s profits. It’s early days yet, but these measures are appear to be paying dividends already; Rebel Gurl enjoys a retention rate of over 80%.

Former music industry executive Sandy Monteiro set up Rebel Gurl to find a way of doing things better in the F&B industry; whether it’s using eco-friendly packaging, offering quality and healthy meals at affordable prices or, most importantly, finding a better way to engage and motivate young people to work in the F&B industry.

At the heart of his mission is a desire to “spark the flames of entrepreneurship in the hearts of every Rebel on our team”, so that every employee has the opportunity to share in the success of the brand.

BizQ speaks to Mr Monteiro on how he plans to achieve this goal and his support for sustainable employment practices.

Sandy Monteiro with Rebel Gurl employees

When did you start Rebel Gurl and how has the business grown?

I started writing the business plan in 2016 and we opened our first outlet at Triple One in Somerset in 2019. We plan to open another outlet at Tampines by end January and in Clementi in April. We currently have 12 full-time employees. We are also planning to expand to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

You want your employees to share in the success of the business. How do you plan to do this?

We want to give people a desire to be entrepreneurs, and a platform that allows them to be passionate and one that rewards hard work. To do this, we pay an industry wage and promise 30% profit-sharing to our employees. This will incentivise them to work harder and make the business more sustainable.

They can take this money back as additional salary, but we encourage them to roll it back into the business as equity so that they become co-owners of the business.

We also want to create a place where our employees can grow professionally. For instance, when we do go overseas, it will be the pioneer batch from Singapore that will train the staff in the Philippines and Indonesia. So they move from being F&B staff to regional trainers.

What was your motivation for doing this?

I come from a small town in Malaysia and went on to become the President of Universal Music Asia. How did I do this? Two people gave me a chance, and I took it and made it a success. One was my godmother in Australia who gave me money to start my own F&B business after I graduated for no other reason than she loved me.

The other is Tony Fernandes (Founder of AirAsia) whom I met when he was the managing director of Warner Music Malaysia. With no experience in the music business, he took a chance and hired me to be his head of international marketing. He gave me an opportunity to make a name for myself in the music business, and that led me to becoming President of Universal Music Asia.

So these two people changed my life, and with Rebel Gurl, I want to also create a platform that can impact the lives of hundreds of people. In the F&B business, the rich get richer. I want to create a more equitable model where everyone works harder and shares in the success of the business.

What is the business structure like at Rebel Gurl?

There is no management hierarchy. We run each outlet as a partnership. Everyone is trained in every aspect of the job and they work as a squad. We encourage young people to join and if they have new marketing ideas, they can test it out at Rebel. We want to challenge them to revolutionise the F&B business. If you look at our Instagram posts, most of it is not about food. It’s about creating a place where young people feel they belong.

How has the business benefited from this model?

We have an employee base that is proud, motivated and incentivised with a strong sense of brand ownership. We have been rated at the top of several independent food review lists and enjoy a staff retention rate of above 80%, which is unheard of in the F&B business.

What are the challenges in having such a unique business model?

The challenge is that people feel uncomfortable being out of the box. They like to fit into a shape they are used to. So we have get our people to challenge the norm. We don’t want to be a traditional F&B franchise, where the owners take the money and run. We want to create a long-lasting, impactful business. If we focus on that and creating quality products, the profits will come.

What is your long-term vision for Rebel Gurl?

I will be satisfied when we are established in the four countries the region; when we are profitable; and when our employees have moved on to managerial and regional positions and are running their own P&L without input from HQ.

Rebel Gurl is among the pioneer companies who pledged their commitment to Sustainable Employment practices. Join them and take the Sustainable Employment Pledge today.

Share your company’s journey to adopting sustainable employment practices with us by emailing sustainable.employment@sbf.org.sg