Bring back Tipping to draw Singaporeans to work in F&B

This article first appeared in Jentrified Citizen

By Jen

The Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) has issued a strong statement urging the government to re-assess curbs on the inflow of foreign workers or businesses will face dire consequences.

It added in a statement that if nothing is done, Singapore may also lose its reputation as a global city with a vibrant food and beverage (F&B) sector. The association was responding to the Population White Paper, which was recently endorsed in Parliament.

What got to me was the liner in the statement that said “the sector is facing a dire situation because many Singaporeans tend to shun F&B jobs, leaving the industry with little choice but to rely on foreign workers.”

Cheap foreign labour as the solution again?

Are there really no other alternatives to consider? Have they really run out of ideas? If so, let me make some suggestions that may help draw Singaporeans to work in the food and beverage industry. Have a minimum wage, pay higher wages and come up with better and more innovative human resource policies are some obvious ideas. But the key suggestion I will like to make is for our government to scrap the 10% service charge and bring back tipping instead.

Unknown to many, the mandatory 10% service charge doesn’t go into the pockets of the service staff in Singapore. It goes to the company that owns the F&B business. What they do with the money is anyone’s guess.

In countries such as in the US, it literally pays to work as a wait staff as they get to make a fair amount of tips on top of their wages. Tipping also motivates the staff to work harder and to be more productive. It also helps to raise the standard of service, something which Singapore seriously needs to look into.

In many European countries like Spain for example, I have been impressed and humbled by how hard their wait staff work.  Their productivity puts our country’s to shame. Many restaurants and cafes in Europe have a skeletal team which multi-tasks and work efficiently. At one cafe in bustling Barcelona, I witnessed a woman single-handedly working the cash till while taking orders, making coffee and dishing up breakfast.  She was the only person serving all the customers in that cafe. Her hard work was well rewarded by appreciative tips.

Singapore doesn’t have tipping culture you say?  Well, we did, until the law changed with the introduction of the service charge. It will take time to change mindsets, but if we don’t try alternative solutions like bringing back tipping to make the job more attractive, the service industry will always have a crutch mentality. It’s just too easy to “threaten” our pro-foreigner government and demand for cheap foreign labour to solve labour woes.