After the lockdown restrictions eased all over the world, a lot of restaurants has reopened and are working again. Meanwhile, Singapore can be considered as a little world of both solutions and problems. Singapore is a compact city with a population of 5.6 million and you can lots of different restaurants, in it, which the Covid-19 pandemic has hit them all. In this article we will take a look at what Singapore teaches us about the post-lockdown food industry.
The food scene did suffer dramatically — from highbrow to common to inexpensive. Vianney Massot, a one-star Michelin restaurant owned by an alumnus of the late French superstar chef Joël Robuchon, officially confirmed it was halting business activities while it started to look for a new place, as its location on Hongkong Street “is no longer associated with our vision ” in a post-Covid-19 world. Founder Bak Kut Teh, that’s been serving the pork bone soup that’s part of its name for more than 40 years, made a public appeal for consumers, claiming profits had plummeted by more than 85 percent and if things didn’t turn around for the next two months it would have to shut down.
Government aid has assisted others to stay alive. These initiatives include the rent-payment respite and the Job Support Scheme that helps protect local employees ‘ wages. The rental waivers “really helped a lot to pull us through,” says Nancy Koh, the “ lady boss” of 328 Katong Laksa, which has numerous sites that serve one of Singapore’s favourite meals.
But creativity and innovation — and often just sheer desperation — were crucial as well. When the opportunity arose to restart, the reduced supply chains would have had to be refilled. Gibran Baydoun, the founder of Lucali BYGB, discovered that pizza boxes couldn’t easily be sourced within Singapore. “Even [the original] Lucali in Brooklyn was having issues getting boxes, but I did find a distributor in Las Vegas,” Baydoun says. “They likely got them from China. ” there has also been opportunism: scrounging via the remains of restaurants which had closed down. Says Baydoun, “just how are you going to even get dinnerware or 250 forks?
Social media and the internet greatly assisted in bringing back business. “We began posting on Facebook, and our distribution became a phenomenon overnight,” says Ong Ka Yi, a supervisor at Mini Star (HK) Fermented Beancurd, which works in the Geylang neighbourhood east of the now mostly shut down central business district. “We never expected the market demand to be so massive and popular.”
“It was a double-edged knife,” says Nick Pelliccione, Mia Tavola’s gastronomic specialist at community-dining. “Many businesses were seeking to just get public’s attention online, but the amount of people browsing online contributed to more competition. Finding feedback and having recognition while everybody is online makes things more difficult as of whether we differentiate online. “Yet, he notes,” because of that, we definitely got more clients. “For now, Mia Tavola serves its product, tiramisu, to a significant degree.
Ryan Clift reflects the learning experience of a roller-coaster trial-and – error. Tippling Club’s chef-owner, a buzzy restaurant / bar on Tanjong Pagar Road in Singapore which holds the No. 17 spot on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list, saw many in the industry start selling delivery menus, all of them trying to serve just what they’d be serving at their restaurants — and aiming to look just the same way, as the pictures on social media, also in takeaway, reflect. His creative dishes — including A5 wagyu with kampot herb, broccoli, and pomme gaufrette; black lime sorbet with garlic oil and coconut; a foie gras cheesecake with blueberries, cream, pine nut, and walnut — were hard to execute and wouldn’t withstand carton distribution boxes. “I’d love being able to be doing what I do in my restaurant but we knew it wasn’t going to be an option,” says Clift. “And, in traditional gastronomy, we went right back to our origins.” That included burgers, salads, cookies, Sunday roasts, and even leek and potato soup from his mum.
Tippling Club was getting sufficient money in the bank to get through difficult months, but a pandemic was just something entirely new. Clift made the decision to recommend that most of the workers take a leave right from the start. “During the first week and a half, I was very mentally shattered, and I just didn’t know how we’d get through that,” he says. “I figured we’d be shutting down realizing what’s in the balance, knowing how much my labour and rent and everything else is.”
To find out the way ahead, Clift curled up with head chef Ayo Adeyemi and head bartender Andrew Loudon. Loudon figured out a software interface to deliver as he and Adeyemi were in the kitchen preparing meals. Weeks before quarantine, they should have sought for to take-out services, Clift claims, having anticipated the tragedy. Yet he hadn’t got details. And they go it alone. “Our first week of delivery was an f —- ing nightmare to the point I smashed plate and became very loud in the restaurant,” says Clift. It was only the three of them who were managing regular activities, down from a workforce of over 20.
But it did get better. During the fourth week, the entire team were working at the restaurant to help. Clift had also secured his landlord’s rental aid, and the government had offered some help. Liquor firms helped, too: Tippling had collaborations with or sponsorship deals from the likes of Rémy Martin, Rémy Cointreau, Beam Suntory, Pernod Ricard, and Bacardi.
The delivery drinks were “great,” Clift says. Tippling introduced a huge ice cube with a beverage like Negroni. It also revived a special treat, named the Happiness drink, with gummi bears containing alcohol. “The gum bears? Seven hundred orders for a bag of f-ing gummy bears in two months, and people have paid $10 to just get them delivered.
The restaurant has had some big events. May 31 was a Virtual Tattoo Party, where guests had a bag such as tequila, chips, dip, and a T-shirt sent out to their homes before the Zoom event, which included margarita making and even trivia rounds. On the 5th and 6th of June there was a sake master class with just a food demonstration, and on the 4th of July there was a truffle dinner. Bartender Loudon did a number of virtual events.
Clift kept prices down by just not charging for the stuff provided by the sponsors. “We might have charged a great deal of money for a few of the virtual dinner parties. You’re going to get a bottle of Maker’s Mark or a truffle — all this weird stuff, but all of them was sponsored, and I’m never going to charge customers for stuff that was sponsored, “he says. “I’m just charging for the entire package.”
Now Singapore has permitted dine-in operational activities again as of mid-June, part of the phased re-opening — still with the threat of Covid-19 re-opening. Things are still not back to pre-pandemic normality, as masks are mandated for people out in public (though they can take them off when they want to eat or drink), and restaurants are obligated to use social distancing in their seating arrangements. “We were working our asses off. We’ve done our own website, our own preparation, but we’ve been pushing to stay here as well, “Clift says. “I am so pleased with the support we have received from our customers.”
During the shutdown, he claims the restaurant really gained a new audience, just what government calls the circuit breaker virus. People who have discovered Tippling through delivery or events are arriving in to dine at the restaurant. He cut off web orders for a few weeks since staff could not physically manage both the orders of restaurant and the online platform. But with a limited option of drinks and non-perishable items, he’s back online.
“I wouldn’t tell things are back to usual right now,” says Nancy Koh of 328 Katong Laksa. “Although eat-in services are permitted, there are presently still limits to the number of clients we have in our stores due to social distances between each customer. And given the confusion and current economic situation, a majority of customers would certainly be more careful about their expenses as well.
Clift is worried about Singapore’s once-flowering bar scene, most of which stays closed due to circuit breaker limitations. But he’s hopeful that Singapore’s restaurant sector is going ahead. He anticipates there will be some significant changes in the next 6 to 8 months. “There’s certainly a group of well-established chefs and ambitious young chefs that I think they’ve been listening to the market and truly spent the last couple of months constructing some cool ideas. Some may work, some may thrive, some may be franchises all around the world, ” he says. “There’s going to be just a little burst of some very interesting things going on.”
“At the end of the day,” he says, “the restaurants that are powerful and innovative can pivot and do just fine. It’s almost motivating to roll the punches.