“Get rid of the bidding process”, says Kf Seetoh and suggests fair rental system for hawker center stall

“Get rid of the bidding process”, says Kf Seetoh and suggests fair rental system for hawker center stall

SINGAPORE —  “Get rid of the bidding process la, ” said Makansutra founder Kf Seetoh, in response to the recent news report on vacant stalls in the bustling Amoy Street Food Centre.

Mr Seetoh criticised the practice of bidding for hawkers to secure a stall in the hawker centre, arguing that the government should do away with it and offer fair rentals and give it to the most deserving hawkers.

8world, Singapore Chinese media recently reported that at least 15 stalls are currently vacant in this famous food centre.

When asked for comments, some hawkers there said this wasn’t always the case, citing how there were almost no vacant stalls before the pandemic.

A stall owner who wished to remain anonymous revealed that some of the vacant stalls were run by young entrepreneurs who were first-time hawkers.

But many of these young hawkers closed their stalls after a few months, due to a high starting rent and being unable to generate enough income to make ends meet.

Amoy Street Food Centre is one of the favourite dining spots nearby the Central Business District and is managed by National Environment Agency (NEA).

According to NEA, the stall occupancy rate of the food centre was about 90% last month, out of a total of 135 stalls.

Hawkers have to submit monthly rental bids during NEA’s monthly tender exercises to secure a stall there, Stalls are awarded to the highest bidder.

Former Coffee Shop Vendors Used To Higher Rent

Zheng Xiangming, a 37-year-old drinks stall owner shared that the 15 stalls have been vacant for a few months now.

He suggested another reason for the exit of these hawkers is that many former coffee shop vendors overbid on their rental prices and were unable to sustain their stalls in the long run.

Some former coffee shop vendors were encouraged to bid high rental prices because of the heavy subsidies for rent and services handed out by the government during the pandemic.

“Some of the stalls listed moved here from coffee shops. They believe that hawker centre vendors enjoy government subsidies during the epidemic, so it is more secure to set up stalls in hawker centres. ”

He added that these vendors moved here due to coffee shops’ rising rental. They are all used to high rents, and they are willing to bid no matter how high they are.

Kf Seetoh: Just do away with the bidding process

However, Kf Seetoh, Singapore’s famous food critic, pointed out that it is not the hawkers’ fault they bid high rates for a stall.

“It’s the Bid concept. Government builds hawker centres with public monies to protect micro food business operators and to keep prices as low as possible to feed the masses.”

“But,..they make you bid for it and tell you to keep menu prices low. Desperation and greed creep in naturally. Everyone wants a stall in their favourite centres, ” said KF Seetoh.

Kf Seetoh who is also a strong advocate for Singapore hawkers, said this just does not add up as everyone needs to make money in these uncertain times.

Instead, the authorities should just get rid of the bidding process, offer a fair rental and give it to the most deserving ones, may it be based on the menu, talent and preservation of Singapore’s unique food culture.

Kf Seetoh is currently leading efforts to expand authentic Singapore hawker culture, with Urban Hawker set food in New York City in September this year.

The food market feature 17 stalls, 11 of them manned by true Singapore hawkers, selling everything from kaya toast to chicken rice and white bee hoon.

NEA: Vacant Hawker Stalls Filled Within Three Months

Amoy Street Food Centre was closed last October till January this year for renovations.

Regarding the vacant stalls, NEA said that most of these stalls were currently undergoing restoration to their original set-up.

NEA added that most vacant hawker stalls are filled within three months after tenders are launched.

According to NEA’s website, there were three successful bids in August for Amoy Street Food Centre, which ranged between $3,200 to $3,633.

The highest monthly rental bid ever received for the food centre’s stall was $4,988 back in 2018. The second-highest bid came this February for $4,688.

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