Skills You Need to Stay Relevant in the Singapore F&B Scene


The food and beverage industry in Singapore (and all around the world) is one of the most cutthroat, competitive and hardest to succeed in sectors out there. In order to be successful, both businesses and employees, need to constantly work to stay current, be competitive and hire, train and retain the best staff possible and actively work to stay relevant in this ever evolving business.

How is this accomplished? I will layout a few of the necessary skills for succeeding in the F&B industry and how to obtain them.

Soft Skills (for the employee):

Good Service Hospitality– Have you ever been to a restaurant and the staff wasn’t friendly? No matter how awesome the food is, it can ruin a dining experience and keep patrons from returning. Even if you are not feeling super smiley and hospitable that day, as the old adage goes – fake it ’til you make it. It’s the intangibles, such as friendliness, that really go a long way in a restaurant and someone’s personal success.

Well-spoken / Good customer relations– Being able to confidently and clearly communicate with customers is key. Whether it’s taking a delivery order over the phone, or memorizing the nightly specials at a fine dining establishment, communication is key.

Energetic / Proactive– One of the biggest factors to a successful F&B establishment is proactive employees. The hours can be long and the environment can be stressful, but with eager and proactive employees more tasks get done and more customers get served.

Organized– Depending on where you work, a F&B employee often keeps changing and varying hours. It’s essential to keep your work schedule organized and show up on time. Sharp organizational skills also come in handy when working in a busy kitchen, taking orders or mixing drinks, just to name a few. Life inside F&B moves like a freight train – don’t be caught running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Take pride in the business and in what you do – I can tell right away if an employee at a F&B establishment believes in where they work, or is just simply clocking in and out everyday for the sake of having a job. People who take pride in their job and believe in the mission of their employer are better workers and stand out in the crowd.

Job Skills:

Know-how– It is essential to understand every detail of not just your job, but the entire establishment. There is a reason top chefs often boast of starting their careers as dish washers. The more you learn about your role and every other detail you can get your hands on, the more successful and ready for advancement you will be.

Bi-lingual– Even though English is the commonly spoken language in Singapore, the majority of the population is of Chinese descent. In addition, millions of tourists from around the world visit Singapore each year. The ability to speak two, or even more, languages fluently will most creatively help with getting you hired and advancing to the career you desire.

Etiquette- From a hawker center to the fanciest of dining establishments,each customer base has certain habits and expectations. Learn what your employer expects of you and most of all, know your audience.

Working with changing technology – Businesses are constantly looking to technology to help run their business smoother and increase productivity. It is essential employees, with the proper training, know how to use the equipment.

Soft Skills (for the business):

Being Hospitable– Success and moral often begins from the top down. Creating a sense of welcome and warmth in your restaurant is key to customer satisfaction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been treated rudely for asking to dine without a reservation (god forbid). Why? I’m not impressed that you’re full, I am turned off by your impoliteness. Instill a genuine sense of hospitality in your business plan.

Taking customer feedback seriously– Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. And not always in an annoying 10 question survey while the server stands over your shoulder kind of way, but in a genuine wanting to lean how you can improve your business kind of way.

Ability to implement change fast– Restaurants that are continually evaluating and reevaluating their practices are often the most successful. You rarely hit a home-run on the first try – things, especially in F&B, are a constant work in progress. To stay relevant you need to see what does and doesn’t work for you, build a rapport with your customer base and use them to look for and seek out trends. Don’t be afraid of change and to admit something isn’t working.

Managerial Skills:

Training / evaluating employees– Ensuring your staff knows every detail of their role and all aspects of the business is key. Be on hand for comprehensive training and answering any questions. Use the available rescues around Singapore. Regular performance evaluations are beneficial for both the employer and employee.

Encouraging career advancement– In Singapore, staff retention is a frequent concern among F&B employers. One way to combat this is for employers to highlight career advancement opportunities and wage progression. This also helps to show the employees are valued.

NTUC and unions work with the relevant government agencies and industry employers to chart career progression for workers for each industry using the Progressive Wage Model. The transparency in the system allows employees to understand the skill-sets needed to move up to the next level and the training necessary in order to obtain said skills.

core executive program

Implementing technology to improve productivity – A pizza joint tapped on e2i’s Inclusive Growth Programme to invest in a new dough press and mobile application. The staff was able to shape 60 pizzas in two minutes (previously compared to just 1 pizza in the same amount of time) and handle more customers quickly and more efficiently and improving customer satisfaction via their mobile app

e2i’s Inclusive Growth Programme works to connect companies with vendors that offer productivity initiatives (such as equipment, tools and software) to solve operational challenges with funding of up to 50% of these solutions.

Advertising – Millennials are now a days considered to be the most sophisticated diners out there because of their access to information online. The vast amounts of information available allows them to consistently seek out the best places to dine. Make sure you are easily and brilliantly accessible to today’stechnologically dependent.

Who Can Help?

e2i – (Employment and Employability Institute), created by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in 2008, is an integral part of the Labour Movement’s effort to help working people in Singapore have better jobs, better pay and better lives.

By assisting businesses to achieve higher productivity and redesign jobs to be easier, smarter and safer, businesses could give workers sustainable wage increases. e2i has impacted 100, 000 workers by the end of 2015.


e2i works with its partners to re-design the jobs to help workers gain skills, wages, and climb the career ladder. They regularly host job fairs, post new employment opportunities on their jobs board online and host a variety of Professional Development Programs.

WDA – (The Workforce Development Agency of Singapore) mission is to enhance the employability and competitiveness of the workforce in Singapore by working with various partners (including employers, industry associations, the Union and training organizations), to develop relevant skills-based training, accessible to everyone in the workforce. WDA works with and provides information for individuals, employers and training organizations.

The Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) particularly plays an essential role in the training and development of employees. WSQ is a national credentialing system. It trains, develops, assesses and recognises individuals for key competencies that companies look for in potential employees.


Training & Career Advancement:

Per NEA requirements, there are compulsory food and hygiene courses that workers in the F&B industry must to attend. Such courses can be found under the WSQ system.

Additionally, there are multiple training providers in the F&B industry that can offer horizontal skill-sets training (for example, operations or finance knowledge for back-end operations) or deep skills training (comprehensive culinary institutions). Also, a F&B career can vastly improve with training recognized by both local and international certifications. Check out WDA’s course directory for just a few options.

e2i also regularly offers F&B Masterclass events. Topics range from ‘Unlocking the Potential in your F&B Business,’ to ‘Beef and Coffee Pairings.’ According to NTUC’s Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing, the idea of the Masterclass Series is all about helping PMEs to stay competitive in their respective sectors and grooming them to take on leadership positions.

(FB post )

As you can see, there are always things to learn, skills to be gained and opportunities to grow -both as business and as an individual. With a little know-how, elbow grease and motivation you and your business – with the help of institutions like e2i and WDA – can prosper and stay relevant in this hard-to-succeed industry.

*This post was brought to you in partnership with the Labour Movement.

Have an interesting hawker story or good food to share? Email us at [email protected]