How to expect hawkers to make a decent living?

hawker centre ST
Image of new hawker centre, Photo credit – Straits Times


By Douglas Ng, Fishball Story

After attending the briefing regarding the new hawker centre, I have some thoughts. I am a Gen Y hawker, and it takes a lot of courage to step into this industry. Each year there are so many quality hawkers retiring due to old age if not others would rather move into other industry or end up working for others.

NTUC stated that they are judging 40% base on rental and 60% on other criteria. But everyone is not confident at tendering due to the minimum price set for every stall. For instance fishball noodles at $2.70.

On the papers, they talk about attracting quality hawkers. Do you actually think that a quality hawker will come out with quality food when they use quality ingredients and if the cost of food is so high, how much do you think the profit margin will be?

From what I see, many people in SG are paying for prices in shopping malls & paid $$$ for a coffee or a bowl of ramen, yet moan about prices of Hawker food.

If the basic ingredients are so expensive, how can we expect hawkers to make a decent living?

It is no wonder not many of the younger generation wants to take on the Hawker trade.

$2.70 a bowl/plate is very cheap. Profit margin must be minimal.

Mainly not a lot can offer cheap food,
1) Rental
2) Expenditure on supplier due to GST.
3) Expenditure on Gas, Water and Electric due to the need to open for long hrs
4) Salary due to shortage of manpower

Lastly, they set a price for spaghetti 5.80 and fishball noodle at 2.70. I just think it is not fair. Our cost are really high too.

They said, “experts” have calculated these cost. Everything they say is transparent.
I am a hawker myself. Known to be one of the most famous fishball noodle in Singapore and I know about what cost are as a pioneer generation y hawker. It is only getting higher and its tougher.

What kind of living am I going to make myself if the profit margin is so low? The heritage is dying. If they want young gen to come in, give them a better profit. If their food is good, they make a lot of money, they deserve it.

This system is so wrong. There hasn’t been anyone sounding out. Why? Most of the hawkers are not educated. They don’t listen to the people. What are they trying to prove for coming up with these low prices? Providing cheaper meals for the low income? Is everyone living in Bukit Panjang poor or low income?

If you really want to help the need. You could have come up with a system just like how medical centres are doing. A card for the lower income group. Show us the card and we will give them discounted meals. No problem. I like doing charity but if I put in so much effort to do charity for those that don’t need it, and at the end of the day I don’t make much, then i have a failed business model and do you think it is sustainable being a hawker?

I really want to tender for Bukit Panjang hawker because its near my house and cannot find a good location as most of the good ones are taken up. I discussed this issue with Kf Seetoh and we are all worried about the heritage.

NTUC said they had done surveys with residence there and most of them want cheap food but this is a ridiculous question, who don’t.. but they could have shown more care and attention to the tenders as well because we are the one that put in all the effort in preparing food.

This is not a complain. I am sharing with you what both young hawkers and existing hawkers both are thinking.

Nevertheless, I still want to give it a shot at Bukit Panjang. Everyone business is like a gamble and I will gamble in this opportunity. Thank you for spending time reading this message.

This post was first published on Douglas’s Facebook and republished with permission.

The Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre was the first to be announced out of the 20 new centres that the Government will build by 2027. It has 28 cooked food stalls, 14 market stalls and have a seating capacity of 500.