Dou­ble Tap

Singapore Tatler - - UPFRONT -

Chris Bar­ish and Julie Mul­li­gan of Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer are the Happy Meal of the burger busi­ness: they com­ple­ment each other and even com­plete each other’s sen­tences. The cou­ple be­hind the pop­u­lar chain talks to Daniel Goh about their as­pi­ra­tions for the brand

Chris bar­ish, julie mul­li­gan and i were en­sconced in a cor­ner ta­ble at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, which has its own lit­tle niche at The Shoppes at Ma­rina Bay Sands. Opened last Septem­ber, it is the brand’s first Asian out­post. Justly proud, owner Bar­ish looked around at the bus­tle of ac­tiv­ity, and pro­claimed: “It’s been doing great,” when I asked how busi­ness was. “What time is it?” he queried. “It’s 4pm,” chimed in Mul­li­gan, Bar­ish’s wife and busi­ness part­ner. “Even at 4pm on a week­day, there are peo­ple here,” Bar­ish con­tin­ued, with­out skip­ping a beat. “On the week­end, there’ll be a thou­sand peo­ple.” Mul­li­gan nod­ded: “It’ll be crazy all day long.” The cou­ple speaks as one voice. They are clearly proud of the per­for­mance of Black Tap in Sin­ga­pore. Bar­ish ex­plained: “We have well over 5,000 cus­tomers a week, up to 6,000. I have been in the food and bev­er­age busi­ness since I was 17, and this has ex­ceeded all our ex­pec­ta­tions.” Bar­ish, who built the Black Tap brand from a 15‑seat burger joint in New York in 2015, to an em­pire with lo­ca­tions across the US and in Geneva, Dubai and Sin­ga­pore, at­tributes his success to “giv­ing the world a slice of down­town New York”. “We bring au­then­tic New York to dif­fer­ent mar­kets. New York is al­ways cool. And a juicy burger is al­ways appealing. There’s a huge burger cul­ture ev­ery­where, so we are in a good space. Be­fore we opened, there were com­ments that our burgers were too big, but now, cus­tomers are eat­ing them with noth­ing left on the plates! We stayed true to who we are and we still serve the 200g burger.” Mul­li­gan, who is Black Tap’s direc­tor of design and devel­op­ment, added: “Our design is also con­sis­tent and au­then­tic to New York. You will al­ways recog­nise that it’s Black Tap wher­ever you are in the world, but it comes with unique fea­tures and lo­cal art that you will be ex­cited to see.” Be­sides its juicy burgers, Black Tap’s im­mense pop­u­lar­ity is also thanks to its In­sta­gram-wor­thy milk­shakes. The restau­rant not only sells fa­mil­iar­ity, bridg­ing the gap be­tween fast food and fine din­ing, but also takes it up a notch. “We’ve iden­ti­fied this gap as some­thing in the mid­dle that is fun and ex­cit­ing. And any­one can

come in—you can bring kids, small or large groups, or even come on your own. It’s a warm, hos­pitable place with com­fort­ing food. And we have a spe­cial dish every month, so there’s al­ways some­thing new,” ex­plained Mul­li­gan. The cou­ple’s jour­ney to Sin­ga­pore started when Black Tap opened at The Vene­tian Las Ve­gas in 2017. “It was a tremen­dous success and a beau­ti­ful restau­rant, so Las Ve­gas Sands [also the par­ent com­pany of in­te­grated re­sort Ma­rina Bay Sands] in­vited us to visit Sin­ga­pore,” said Bar­ish. “We fell in love with the coun­try and it’s been a great in­tro­duc­tion to Asia. We want to be in iconic lo­ca­tions, so to be in­vited here is amaz­ing.” Sin­ga­pore re­mains the brand’s spring­board to Asia for the mo­ment as they scout for other iconic lo­ca­tions in Tokyo and Seoul. “It makes sense to set up a base in Ja­pan to ex­pand across Asia,” said Bar­ish. Chat­ting with the cou­ple re­vealed their very dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and work­ing styles. In fact, the in­ter­nal joke within the com­pany is that Mul­li­gan, an ar­chi­tect by train­ing, is in every depart­ment. She looks into details, while Bar­ish is entreprene­urial and in­stru­men­tal in choos­ing the right part­ners. “I try not to be in ev­ery­thing,” Mul­li­gan ra­tio­nalised. “But the truth is we have a very small team for what we are: a cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive chef, two di­rec­tors of oper­a­tions, creative di­rec­tors to lead so­cial me­dia, ex­ter­nal brand­ing con­sul­tants, a chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, a mar­ket­ing ad­viser and a lawyer. It’s the right size for now.” Both Bar­ish and Mul­li­gan agreed that money is not their main im­pe­tus for work­ing around the clock. “There are eas­ier ways to make money with a lot less stress,” de­clared Bar­ish. “It’s ex­cit­ing for the two of us to be able to build some­thing to­gether. It’s about cre­at­ing some­thing that takes care of peo­ple, build­ing a warm and hos­pitable place that cre­ates memories for oth­ers, and will hope­fully last a long time.” Black Tap also im­pacted the cou­ple’s mar­riage in a pos­i­tive way. Mul­li­gan said: “It bleeds into our per­sonal life, but it’s nice to be able to come on th­ese trips as a cou­ple. Black Tap al­lows us to spend a lot of time to­gether out­side of fam­ily time. It would be very hard to have a re­la­tion­ship if we weren’t work­ing to­gether!”

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