It’s no secret that we’ve been thrown through a loop with the constant reservoir of COVID-19 restrictions. It’s been a roller coaster ride since 2020 and it looks like we won’t be down anytime soon.
Of course, no one has been able to go through the ups and downs of COVID-19 as much as the F&B industry. They have been mistreated, injured and, unfortunately, not everyone has gotten unharmed.
Now that we are back to Phase 2 (Augmented Alert) and that some normalcy has been restored, we have spoken to some local F&B owners about how they have tackled the measures so far and whether more can be done to make tide through the choppy waters ahead.
A necessary online pivot
When it comes to saving the F&B industry, there has been no louder cry than to support our street vendors.
From the emotional pleas to Facebook of KF Seetoh, to the emergence of various Facebook groups To encourage people to dine at the walking center, we’ve done everything we can to save our walking culture, but is that enough?
After seeing a 25% drop in sales during each intensified alert, Ler Jie Wei, of the famous Eunos Bak Chor Mee, is relieved that he can now eat again and that business between his four stalls will be have stabilized.
With the pivot on the delivery platforms and the arrival of group purchase, these two areas now make up a significant portion of Famous Eunos Bak Chor Mee’s total sales.
The same can be said for Leong Sheen Jet, owner of The Feather Blade and RAPPU, which saw revenue increase during the circuit breaker period and the two intensified alerts.
“We were lucky to experience an increase in global sales. We believe this is due in part to our island-wide delivery capabilities, so that anyone from anywhere in Singapore can enjoy both RAPPU and Feather Blade, ”Sheen told us.
In fact, a pivot to online delivery may be the grace that many F&B companies need. Take Butler Koffee’s Alicia Yap, which runs a special mobile cart service, as an example.
Prior to Covid, Alicia served her winning drinks at various events, including weddings, conferences, inaugurations and exclusive private events, but saw almost zero revenue when the pandemic hit.
Like most coffee shops, Alicia took advantage of our endless addiction to cold beer and the ease of ordering online. It seemed that his corruption was bearing fruit.
“In early March 2021, we decided to set up a physical store to continue our coffee business, while we expect more events to return in the future,” he said.
Mandatory Covid-19 testing for non-stressful employees
With the resumption of dining halls, the safety of patrons and staff is on everyone’s mind. With employees requiring mandatory swab testing every two weeks, it’s certainly an additional burden for F&B owners.
Jie Wei breaks it down for us; with nine staff members and part-time workers attached to each test kit worth $ 9 to $ 10 per person, it adds up. Fortunately, the government provides these test kits for free, so F&B owners don’t have to worry.
While the safety of all involved is of the utmost importance, Howard Lo, director of The Empire eats, the group behind iconic brands such as Standing Sushi Bar, Tanuki Raw, Salmon Samurai and The Secret Mermaid, is also concerned about the well-being of its staff.
“Staff morale and mental well-being have been abused during Covid-19,” he said, adding that the group pledges not to make layoffs and that keeping wages intact depended heavily on subsidies and government plans.
Are existing grants and government grants useful?
Just when these F&B owners have found their footing, a new wave of COVID-19 cases has arrived and they are back underwater.
The life rafts the government has sent in the form of grants and plans have not been perfect, but they have been able to help start-up companies like Alicia’s.
“Yes, these schemes have been very useful for small companies like ours. For example, when we started our new store in Kreta yesterday, we received 80% of the subsidies for our new machines and cash register system ”.
For Jie Wei of the famous Eunos Bak Chor Mee, government plans have certainly helped offset urgent costs such as foreign labor and wages. “We are also pleased that government schemes reflect that they understand the pains the industry is going through.”
The government has a shared sense of empathy for F&B owners, which encourages Howard. “Continued wage maintenance after a circuit breaker was a great recognition by the government that companies will not recover immediately and that this is a long slogan.”
However, not all life rafts are perfect. “Even with government support, the majority is barely achieved,” Jie Wei said.
Howard shared his feelings. “This time, wage support was reduced, foreign workers were not supported, the rate of foreign workers was not waived or landlords were required to reduce rents.”
The government should not facilitate the sale of alcohol and music restrictions
For Sheen, he hopes to see the reduction of alcohol sales restrictions, which is currently banned after 10:30 p.m.
This extension “will certainly be a big boost for the industry, as many of our bar friends, for example, rely on a significant portion of their revenue during those hours,” he explained.
He also finds it unfair that gyms and fitness studios can play music while his clients exercise without masks when music can’t yet be played in F&B environments. “Most definitely miss music, as it’s an integral part of the dining environment,” he stressed.
Howard agrees with these two statements. “With the vaccination rate approaching 80%, I hope the government will relax more restrictions,” he said, highlighting especially the extent of alcohol sales and music playback.
Certainly, COVID-19 has made our F&B industry available to you. While most have been resilient and adaptable, it is a tenuous situation that we expect to emerge relatively unscathed.
Featured Image Credit: The Feather Blade / Chinatown Food Street / Microsoft / CR Tan via Chun Tsubaki