Incubation stalls, free Wi-Fi and performances: Hawker centre committee submits recommendations

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SINGAPORE: Incubation stalls for aspiring hawkers, free Wi-Fi access for customers and even music performances and festive celebrations – these were some of the recommendations put forward by a committee tasked to review the management of hawker centres and the sustainability of the hawker trade.

The recommendations by the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee, a 14-member taskforce formed in January last year and chaired by Senior Minister of State Amy Khor, were submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources on Friday (Feb 3).

The committee received feedback from more than 800 stakeholders, including hawkers, members of the public, cleaning contractors and other industry players, the ministry said.

SUSTAINING THE HAWKER TRADE

To encourage aspiring hawkers to enter the industry, the committee recommended that the Government develop training programmes where participants can learn about the hawker trade, pick up culinary and business skills, and have an opportunity to experience being a hawker.

It suggested that some stalls in various hawker centres could be set aside as “incubation stalls” – fitted with basic equipment to reduce the capital investment required to start a hawker stall, and with supervisors or mentors guiding and coaching the new hawker.

A one-stop information centre should also be set up for hawker trade-related enquiries, such as licence application, regulatory requirements and supplier contacts, the committee said.

INCREASING HAWKERS’ PRODUCTIVITY

The committee also put forward several recommendations to help hawkers increase their productivity, such as centralised dishwashing, cashless payments and bulk purchasing of common ingredients.

“Such measures would not only raise productivity, but also address manpower constraints and cut costs, especially over the medium to long term,” the committee said.

At the stall-level, it recommended that the Government promote and encourage more hawkers to use equipment to automate tedious and repetitive tasks such as cutting chilli, chopping onions and mixing dough.

“Currently there is very little attempt to automate at the stall-level to ease the hawkers’ workload and improve productivity,” it said.

IMPROVING DINING EXPERIENCE

The committee also suggested activities such as music performances and festive celebrations to enhance hawker centres’ vibrancy and customers’ dining experience.

Grassroots organisations, arts groups, schools or tertiary institutions could adopt or partner hawker centres to hold these activities. Hawker centres would then become social spaces for people to come together not just to dine but enjoy or participate in community activities, the committee said.

More amenities such as free Wi-Fi access and child-friendly spaces should also be provided for customers, it added.

To cultivate a tray-return culture among Singaporeans, the National Environment Agency and hawker centre operators should work with cleaning companies to dispel the misperception that cleaners will be made redundant, the committee said.

“A good tray-return culture would facilitate faster turnover of tables and reduce waiting time for the next diner and thus, potentially increasing sales for the hawkers,” the committee said. “It would also result in a cleaner and more pleasant dining environment.”

Illustration from the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee’s report.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said his ministry is studying the report and will respond “in due course”.

There are currently more than 100 hawker centres in Singapore, with more than 6,000 cooked food stalls located islandwide.

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