From portable sushi conveyor belt to robotic arm, Neo Group’s Orange Clove catering brand is leaving its mark on the food industry.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

From portable sushi conveyor belt to robotic arm, Neo Group’s Orange Clove catering brand is leaving its mark on the food industry.

How often do you get to customise your own doughnut? Orange Clove is betting that its Donut Decorating Bar will delight children and adults alike. 

Dessert bars are all the rage. What makes them even more delightful to local clients? When they are laden with not just delectable Western confectionery like cake pops and macarons, but also traditional specialities like kueh lapis. The Aurora Dessert Bar from upmarket caterer Orange Clove is just one example of how the Neo Group takes on a food or dining trend and puts a creative spin to it. 

There are other novel concepts. Orange Clove’s Mala Lok Lok live station offers skewer meats and vegetables cooked in an addictive soup base. At the Donut Decorating Bar, guests get the rare chance to create their own take on a common snack. The Moving Connoisseur, meanwhile, makes use of a portable conveyor belt to roll out not just fresh sashimi and sushi, but also tasty tapas and canapes. 

Such concepts would not exist if the company behind them does not have extensive experience to understand what customers want before they even know it. To be sure, for over 27 years, Neo Group has built up a strong portfolio with more than 25 brands. Founded by Neo Kah Kiat, who came from a humble background, it is today Singapore’s leading food solutions provider in the areas of food catering, food retail, food manufacturing, and supplies and trading. 

My Reading Room

The Aurora Dessert Bar’s blend of Western confectionery and Asian kueh will satisfy a variety of sweet palates. 

In the area of catering, its flagship Neo Garden, along with other brands in the company, epitomises efficiency in its ability to whip up food for up to 500 guests within a three-hour notice period. Its signature curry chicken was developed by the founder himself. Meanwhile, its Lavish Dine brand focuses on high-end catering serving celebrities, foreign dignitaries and the C-suite. Chilli Manis, on the other hand, offers Peranakan cuisine created by a veteran chef. 

The group’s food retail concepts largely cover quick or casual eats. Among them are Umisushi, which serves Japanese staples and has 20 outlets islandwide, and Issho Izakaya at Kallang Wave Mall. 

The SGX-listed group has been ranked the number one events caterer in Singapore for the past seven years. A staff strength of close to 1,600 employees in Singapore and Malaysia means it has the muscle and resources to pull off 10,000-pax events. 


My Reading Room

Orange Clove is the first caterer in Singapore to offer a mala live station in response to the Sichuan-flavour trend.

But the backbone of the organisation is its strong culture of innovation. At Orange Clove, which specialises in luxury and large-scale corporate dos, a dedicated research and development team is consistently brainstorming ideas and looking for the next big food trend. The Mala Lok Lok live station and the Moving Connoisseur sushi conveyor belt, for instance, were industry firsts. 

At its heart, Orange Clove is known for delivering distinctive international cuisine with an Asian flourish. It helps that the group has the resources to source for quality ingredients to provide exceptional culinary experiences. 

The key to satisfying clients, however, starts with anticipating their needs. As such, the group has account managers who specialise in sectors such as pharmaceutical, banking and finance, and property and construction. Their in-depth understanding of the industry’s quirks and the clients’ requirements helps them give solid advice to ensure the smooth running of an event. 

The organisation’s innovative streak applies to work processes as well. As part of a Zerowaste initiative, daily routines and processes were re-examined to cut down on the generation of rubbish. Paperless is the norm when it comes to invoicing and other administrative procedures. 

My Reading Room

Neo Group founder Neo Kah Kiat quit secondary school to become an entrepreneur. Today, his company has close to 1,600 staff and is listed on the SGX.

In catering, biodegradable cornware is used at events for guests, and the company is constantly on the lookout for more sustainable options, such as bagasse (sugar cane pulp) natural fibre products.

Neo Group is moving towards Industry 4.0 and adopting technology with two objectives: to increase productivity and to deliver a seamless customer experience. To those ends, the organisation has adopted innovations such as automation to increase efficiency and the use of robotic arms to cut down on repetitive jobs. 

The company is currently building its new headquarter at Quality Road. Due to be completed late next year, the structure spanning 10 storeys and 300,000 sq ft will house Neo Group’s central kitchens, offices, warehouses, and logistics and storage facilities. The move will allow Neo Group to increase production of meals from 50,000 daily to 250,000. 

Indeed, behind every snazzy event and memorable culinary offering is a well-oiled machine to make it all possible.