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How a 17 year old board game cafe became a household name in Singapore

From a senior project manager to a busines owner and from chain stores to a mega outlet concept. In this interview, we dug into the history of The Mind Cafe with Alvin Tan, the owner and how it has evolved and pivoted to what it is today.

Q: Please share with the readers what The Mind Café is about and how and when did it start?

Hi, I am Alvin Tan, the founder of The Mind Cafe. The Mind Café is a board games café where people come together to play board games / card games over good food and drinks. It is also a place where corporates can host their team bonding sessions and individuals who can host their birthday party etc.

As for how it started, I was working as a Senior Project Manager for a Construction Film and had been given many opportunities to build something out of an empty land. During 2003-2004, I wanted to embark on doing my own business as I enjoyed the process of creating something out of nothing. In year 2004, I participated in the Monopoly Competition held at Tampines Mall, and was extremely excited with the business idea of allowing friends and families to come to a common place to play board games after I lost in the competition. I did a lot of research and realized that South Korea was the only country then to have a huge number of board games cafés. After a few months of preparation, I finally quit my job and set up The Mind Café at 60A Prinsep Street on 1st Jun 2005, believing that the nearby school SMU, Lasalle and NAFA would help in the business.

Q: What is the mission, vision, or guiding principles of your organization? What values does your organization embody?

Mission: - To provide Board gaming as an activity for Singaporean to enjoy with their friends and families

Vision: The Mind Café to be the Leading brand in Singapore and regional for board game’s needs, design and publishing as well

Q: Doing business has never been easy. What is the best decision you have made?

Best Decision will be to open a Mega Outlet (250 seats capacity, 420m2) during Covid’19. Opening a Mega outlet has been one of my goals ever since I realize that the multiple outlet / chain outlet concept would not work for The Mind Café. (I define Mega outlet as being able to allow 250 to 300 players to gather at the café or about 5000 sqft). We set our goal in 2019 to be able to open a Mega outlet in 5 years’ time as it will take us a lot of financial capability, manpower and the ability to sustain the Mega Outlet.

Due to Covid’19, we chanced upon the current outlet, and we were given the opportunity to try The Mega Outlet concept for a short period of time. But it is also during this short period of time that made us bring forward our plan to open the Mega Outlet and eventually extend the stay for a long period of time.

Q: How about the worst?

The worst decision could be we started off The Mind Café on a wrong business model, that is to open multiple outlets in Singapore (we had 5 outlets at our peak during 2009 to 2011). This business model is not scalable and neither is it sustainable in the long run. Eventually, a decision was made to terminate this business model during the pandemic.

Q: What is the future for The Mind Cafe? Are you looking into expansion overseas?

One of the things we are looking at is to focus on publishing games under Mind Café Brand. Another is to launch our own design board and card games to both the local and international markets. We did overseas expansions into India and Indonesia some years back and we might relook into this business expansion model again, this time mainly into Southeast Asia countries as they are nearer to Singapore.

Q: What trends do you see in the Singapore tabletop industry?

There will be probably more games published by Singaporeans as more Singaporeans are interested in publishing their own games. We observe that Singaporeans like or prefer to play social deduction games and Party games, and the trends seem to be more on thematic games.

Q: How about the trend in the region or the world?

We will be seeing more games published by games designers from Asia too.

Q: What is one thing you wish the game designers know or do?

Games Designers can try to work at Board games cafés to have a better understanding of the needs of the customers. With this understanding, they will be able to design games which are preferred by the customers.

Q: Where can your cafes be found?

You can find out more about Mind Café at our website:

or visit our stores at

The Mind Café (Flagship Outlet) Since year 2005

60A Prinsep Street

Singapore 188664

The Mind Café (Mega Outlet) Since year 2020

30 Prinsep Street #01-01

Singapore 188647


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