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For This Café, Going Digital Isn’t Just About Selling Food – But Giving Back To The Community

For This Café, Going Digital Isn’t Just About Selling Food – But Giving Back To The Community

Charlie’s Cafe is a neighbourhood cafe with a mission.


Charlie’s Café has two big missions: to empower the indigenous community in East Malaysia, and help the underprivileged in the community. 

These are not goals that can be achieved easily, but owners Desonny Tuzan and Debra Leong are determined to keep their social enterprise-modelled restaurant running – even with difficulties brought on by the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Giving back to the community, one dish at a time

Desonny and Debra have always wanted to do something that can deliver positive impact to the communities around them. 

“We use our talents – my wife and I – to set up a food and beverage (F&B) business specialising in comfort food, like laksa, nasi lemak, and chicken chop,” explained Desonny. There’s no doubt about the East Malaysian couple’s culinary talents, as Charlie’s Café is said to serve one of the best chicken chops in town. 

To empower the indigenous people, the café employs and trains East Malaysians to excel in the F&B industry. They also practise the farm-to-table concept, sourcing ingredients from the Orang Asli community as a form of support. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the café is that they have a Pay-It-Forward service. Diners only need to contribute RM5, which the café will convert into a food voucher for the needy. These vouchers are displayed on a board in the café, where those in need can collect to claim their meals. Charlie’s Café is also known to employ ex-prisoners, giving them a much-needed chance to rebuild their lives.

Going digital to spread the good cause  

As with most F&B businesses, revenue dipped when the MCO was implemented. Though this poses some difficulty in their mission, Desonny and Debra refuse to give up. 

Because it’s not just businesses that are suffering – many underprivileged Malaysians are suffering as well, who are those Charlie’s Café has pledged to help.

So when two of their regular customers introduced Desonny and Debra to the AmBank-Maxis SME-In-a-Box package, the pair immediately signed up for it.

(Credit: Maxis)

The package is a solution jointly offered by both Maxis and AmBank which comes with digital and financial features. These include a Digital Marketing Starter Kit (DMSK) and SME Digitalisation Grant through Maxis; as well as a current account and merchant terminal from AmBank.

“We believe that the DMSK will further fine tune and strengthen our digital marketing presence. We like that it helps us to do targeting strategically. It’s very easy – basic, entry-level digital marketing for people,” Desonny said. 

He also mentioned that the restaurant can now accept payment via AmBank’s DuitNow QR, which means customers can pay for their meals or donate easily. Any payment made via DuitNow QR will be instantly reflected in his AmBank current account.

Desonny also noted how fuss-free the application process was. He was able to get connected with the SME Help Squad to apply for the grant and sign up for the digital business packages he needs. 

Screenshot from

The couple also set up their website to receive online orders, and with some digital marketing efforts, orders started to pour in. On top of their regulars, they even had new customers – all eager for a taste of their signature dishes, and to contribute to their mission.

Digitalisation is just the beginning

Desonny has dreams of building an e-commerce platform that is fully owned by Charlie’s Café.

“The challenge [for this] would be funding. We need funding to build our own e-commerce platform that is powerful enough,” he said. 

But for now, Desonny and Debra will focus on serving great food to their customers, as well as getting more people to know about Charlie’s Café’s mission with the help of the internet.

You can order from Charlie’s Café here, or visit them to pick up your food (stay home, guys) at 29, Jalan Bukit Desa, Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur.

This article is sponsored by Maxis. Find out how you can reach more customers with Maxis’ Digital Marketing Starter Kit as well as the AmBank-Maxis SME-in-a-Box.

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