Forget your neighborhood coffee bar's piffling offer of free wi-fi. Walk into the Geek Terminal restaurant, tel: (65) 6557 0098, in Singapore's central business district and they'll lend you a laptop as well. Phone battery running low? Borrow a charger from manager Christopher Lee. Need to power other devices? You won't need to sneak around for a wall socket simply plug them in at power boards within easy reach of every chair. If you like your borrowed laptop, or the look of the wall-mounted flat screens displaying website-style banner ads, you can buy ones just like them, because the restaurant doubles as a sales agent for Apple and TV maker Chi Mei, as well as Nokia. And did we mention that it serves food? "They really look after you," says customer Kevin Lim, 30, a local Ph.D. student.
Geek Terminal is where dotcom meets dining room, right down to aspects of its business model (those banner ads on the TVs fund the free wi-fi that customers enjoy). Co-founded by 36-year-old Lee and partners Danny Pang, Woon Keat Goh and Liza Abubakar, it officially opened in May but only after "beta testing" by invited guests over several weeks. Most of the initial problems have been in the kitchen. The plate of shrimp, noodles and chicken that someone threw in front of me, for example, tasted adequate at best perhaps a result of the founders' lack of restaurant experience. (Lee was in data consultancy. Goh, 29, marketed car parts and Abubakar, 44, is an architect. The closest they have to catering cred is Pang, 39, who previously trained espresso and cappuccino servers at five-star hotels.) "The emphasis on the food is not as critical as the service we're providing," Lee admits, "but that doesn't mean our food's not nice." He adds that Geek is "revising" some of the meals.
If excellent java and marvelous technology served inside a cyber cocoon sound like your thing, look out for more Geeks. Lee hopes to open in Kuala Lumpur by late this year, and soon thereafter in Jakarta, Dubai and London. Local restaurateurs probably won't be too worried, but it's time to let your neighborhood coffee bar know that the mere provision of free wi-fi isn't going to cut it any more.
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