How 6 F&B Owners Are Handling the COVID-19 Crisis

The recent COVID-19 situation has hit us all pretty hard. While we are thankful that our healthcare system is one of the best in the world and the government has our back, it’s undeniable the recent adjustments have left us a little shaken up.

Amidst all these changes, no area has been hit harder than our beloved F&B sector. The rapidly declining footfall has a devastating ripple effect on all these small businesses. As a nation that loves food more than anything else, this cuts to the core.

To gain better insight, we spoke to six F&B owners to see how they are coping amidst this COVID-19 crisis. After all, there is no better time than to #supportlocal, #savefnbsg and champion #sgunited.

1. Jeremy Lim (Moonstone Bar)

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Credit – Moonstone Bar (Jeremy Lim, Front)

For the quirky Moonstone Bar along Amoy Street, the onset of COVID-19 has “accelerated [Moonstone Bar’s] digital transformation journey as an F&B business”. The owner, Jeremy Lim, further elaborates that all the new measures have led them to rethink the way they run their business.

“Going online, setting up delivery operations and more importantly facing newfound competition with the array of food delivery options available to consumers became the key to [their] focus”.

To ensure the safety of their customers and to keep in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, Jeremy offers food catering for businesses in the vicinity.

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“We thought by sending food to them; it would reduce their need to leave the office, [which risks] their safety. While the natural approach was to come up with promotions to attract more customers to our establishment, we also felt it was socially irresponsible to encourage people to risk their safety to do so”, clarified Jeremy.

The COVID-19 crisis also presents as a Catch-22 for most F &B outlets, because at the end of the day, it is a business after all. Jeremy explains, “The real challenge is not in the ability of our character to survive this storm, but more on the practical aspects of having sufficient cash flow to tide over this period of time”.

Luckily for Jeremy and Moonstone Bar, they managed to clinch some bulk catering orders which could cover rental and staff wages.

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Looking ahead, Jeremy admits the road ahead will be tough but would “prefer to take the positives out of this experience as I fundamentally believe that good times builds confidence while bad times build character”. For Jeremy, while the circumstances are unfortunate, the current situation enables Moonstone Bar to be more “future-ready” and “more agile as a business to deal with challenges in future”.

Right now, the priority is everyone’s health and safety. Jeremy admits, “I have to go against our business objectives to encourage patrons to stay home as much as possible. The sooner we can overcome the virus, the sooner we as F&B businesses stand a chance to bounce back from this crisis”.

I couldn’t agree more. Better yet, lean in heavily to the Moonstone Bar’s takeaway or delivery programmes. Every little bit counts!

Moonstone Bar: 103 Amoy Street, Singapore 069923 | Tel: +65 6610 3029 | Opening Hours: 12pm – 12am (Mon to Fri), 5pm – 12am (Sat), Closed on Sun | Facebook | Instagram | Website

2. Brendon Au (Mister Wu)

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Credit – Mister Wu (Brendon Wu, Left)

For those familiar with Mister Wu, at the end of Nankin Row in Telok Ayer, you’ll know that they offer Hotpot Omakase 火锅10 (S$45++) at an extremely affordable price point. An absolute gem if I do say so myself!

Before the Circuit Breaker, Brendon Au owner of Mister Wu did everything that was asked of them. From social distancing between diners, taking the temperature of staff and patrons and a copious amount of sanitisers. Indeed, for a small restaurant like Mister Wu, limiting seating was a business risk they were willing to take for the health and safety of their patrons.

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Just like many F&B businesses like them, Brendon “pushed the team to provide a ‘buffet’ for delivery even though it incurs enormous losses”. Of course, as a responsible business owner, a profit margin never overrides the heath of their customers.

Mister Wu has taken the bull by the horns with their delivery service, so you can rest assured that you’ll get the same restaurant quality. As a final note, Mister Wu urges us to continue to stay home and support local businesses by having your food delivered.

Mister Wu: 3 Pickering Street, #01-44/45, Nankin Row, Singapore 048660 | Tel:+65 6781 3833 | Opening Hours: 11.30am – 2.30pm & 6pm – 10pm (Mon to Sat), Closed on Sun | Facebook 

3. Teo Shi Kai (The Blue Ginger)

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Credit – The Blue Ginger

Having opened their newest outlet in the revamped Great WorldThe Blue Ginger has seen their fair share of challenges over the last 25 years which even included the 2003 SARS pandemic.

“But,” Teo Shi Kai, director of The Blue Ginger asserts, “these are extraordinary times”.

For this second-generation owner, the current COVID-19 crisis has taught him to “react quicker and better to the many rapid changes and challenges”. These include being more flexible with staffing, at the time before the Circuit Breaker; Shi Kai affirms that The Blue Ginger was “able to operate both restaurants with leaner teams yet still deliver a consistent and quality dining experience”.

Right now for Shi Kai, he is “more focused on pushing for takeaways and delivery”.

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Credit – The Blue Ginger

The COVID-19 had “made [The Blue Ginger] re-evaluate our business and seek ways to ensure that it remains viable, including prioritising essential spending such as quality ingredients and cutting back on non-essential expenses”. It is heartening to know that for The Blue Ginger, the quality of their dishes always come first.

The Blue Ginger has a 20% discount on a la carte orders now, so if you ever have a desire for Peranakan food, you know which restaurant to find. We are all for #savefnbsg.

While Shi Kai understands that this is a difficult period where everyone will need to tighten their belts, he maintains “I’m sure we’ll emerge from this as a more efficient team!”.

The Blue Ginger: 97 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088518 | Tel: +65 6222 3928 | Opening Hours: 12pm – 3pm, 6.30pm – 10.30pm (Daily) | 1 Kim Seng Promenade, Great World City, #01-106, Singapore 237994 | Tel: +65 6235 7042 | Opening Hours: 11am – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm (Daily) | Instagram | Website

4. Chef Aeron Choo (Kappou Japanese Sushi Tapas Bar)

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Kappou Japanese Sushi Tapas Bar at Fortune Center is a little hole-the-wall omakase that promises an excellent evening of some Japan’s finest. The bright and bubbly Chef Aeron Choo helms this diamond in the rough and shares that COVID-19 has not been kind either.

Kappou Japanese Sushi Tapas Bar Online 1 COVID-19

As someone relying heavily on imported produce and fish from Japan, the travel bans have hindered operations at the store.

At the time before the Circuit Breaker and dining out was discouraged, Chef Choo found that she has lost more than half of her customer base.

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For a 12-seater restaurant, this was distressing indeed. To add insult to injury, her landlord was putting even more pressure on her.

Kappou was barely scraping by because of the lack of imported wares. Even so, Chef Choo emphasises that while breaking even is important, having someone take ill from her restaurant for the sake of earning an extra buck is not worth it.

Since Kappou Japanese Sushi Tapas Bar mostly relies on dine-in customers, we hope that Kappou can ride out this COVID-19 crisis in one piece.

Kappou Japanese Sushi Tapas Bar: 190 Middle Road, Fortune Center, #02-10A, Singapore 188979 | Tel: +65 9170 4583 | Opening Hours: 7pm – 11pm (Tue to Sat), Closed on Sun & Mon

5. Lee Lock Teng ( Ah Lock Kitchen)

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Just like many F&B places, Ah Lock Kitchen at Woodlands Drive experienced a considerable dip in customers—at least 50%. Lee Lock Teng, the man behind these Hakka yong tau food bowls, predict that this downward trend will continue as the months roll by.

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With more implementations from the government, Lock Teng has to come up with more creative means for them to keep running. A steadfast determination to not compromise on quality, Lock Teng has even eliminated the use of pork in their dishes. He explains, “This will bring down costs, but the risk is that it may not taste as good. So, now we are trying out at 573 Woodlands outlet which is no pork no lard”. A bold and quick-thinking move, if I do say so myself.

The pressure from landlords seems to be a common affliction for many F&B businesses, and Ah Lock Kitchen is no stranger to this. Delivery platforms seem to be a godsend and pivotal lifelines for our F&B businesses; Lock Teng has come up with promotions and bundle deals to entice bulk ordering.

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Sadly, Lock Teng is not as optimistic as the other owners. He states that if things do not improve soon, there’s “a probability we have to cease operations totally”.

Ah Lock Kitchen is quick, so takeaways will be a breeze and ensure minimal exposure. Therefore, there is no better time to rally support for our local businesses with deliveries.

Ah Lock Kitchen: 573A Woodlands Drive 16, Singapore 738994 | Opening Hours: 7.30 am – 9.30 pm (Daily) | Facebook | Instagram | Website

6. Shaz Henshaw & Myron Tan (Korio)

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For Shaz Henshaw and Myron Tan of Korio, the beginnings of the COVID-19 situation was not such jolt to the system since they were “more of a takeout type cafe to being with”. However, since the Circuit Breaker, things have gotten a little tough for the popular doughnut shop as Shaz states, ” The [Central Business District] has been so dead — as you can imagine!

So, we have been working on having island-wide delivery up and running ASAP”. A tactic that many F&B are turning to in these uncertain times.

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Just like many of her fellow F & B owners, Korio’s staff and customers are “top priority at this point”.  Shaz emphasises how being socially responsible by demarcating the floor with tape so there will be adequate space between customers. Of course, good hygiene and wearing masks is now a practice that goes without saying in Korio.

Shaz echoes the general sentiment of everyone in the F &B industry in that things are somewhat in limbo. For Shaz and Myron, all they can is to “do our best to adapt to the situation and make it work as much as we can”. In times like these, having island-wide delivery would be one of the crucial ways they can make this situation work. Even though Korio misses their customers, they ” can no longer rely on foot traffic/people coming down for us”.

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Nevertheless, just like everyone, Shaz and Myron are adjusting to this new normal. They are optimistic that the situation will improve. They hope that with delivery their customers can still savour Korio’s delectable sammies and pillowy doughnuts in comfort and safety of their own home. Not only does this support Korio but it is Shaz and Myron’s hope that “their doughnuts, sammies and coffees can offer some love, comfort and normalcy in this very ABNORMAL time”.

Korio: 135 Amoy Street, Far East Square #01-03, Singapore 049964| Opening Hours: 8am – 4pm (Mon to Fri), 9am to 3pm (Sat), Closed on Sun|Instagram 

Our reality is changing and is rapidly becoming one we hardly recognise. There’s a lot for us to grapple with, be it at home or work. Everything feels uncertain but if there is anything that we can seek solace in, is food. Be it times of bliss or trying (like now), there’s almost nothing that some dim sum won’t soothe, or a plate of nasi lemak won’t cheer up.

Now that our F&B is in trouble, as a nation of foodies, we can do our part to safeguard our local gems so that they’ll still be there when the COVID-19 crisis is over.