More F&B firms in Singapore automating processes to cope with manpower crunch

SINGAPORE - More local firms in the food and beverage (F&B) sector are starting to automate their processes to deal with labour shortages.

For the last few months, TungLok has been employing three semi-automatic stir-frying devices for their catering arm.

With the machine, 10kg of ingredients - be it noodles, rice, seafood or other dishes - can be cooked in just minutes.

One-year-old cheesesteak restaurant Yellow Submarine has also been employing what it calls a combi oven, which simultaneously allows baking, steaming, braising, and keeps food warm. This allows the restaurant to cut its manpower needs by about 40 per cent.

The two devices were on display on Monday, at an NTUC Learning Journey event at the Yellow Submarine.

The event was attended by about 200 owners and management representatives from about 40 coffee shops, catering companies and hotel F&B restaurants.

NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say said that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), including those in the F&B line, now seem more receptive towards labour-saving devices.

This is compared to three years ago, when the NTUC first started its Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP), a $100 million fund to drive productivity improvements, he said.

"The response (then) was not that encouraging, as many enterprises were still hoping the government might one day reverse its manpower policy. They were waiting for a U-turn.

"But I'm happy to say that in three years, more and more enterprises... have come to realise this is a new reality we all have to live with. As a result, under the IGP, more and more SMEs from different sectors are now coming forward."

To date, 270 productivity projects in the hotels and F&B sector have been helped by the IGP. Over 25,000 workers have also benefited: these establishments have been able to improve the wages of their workers by an average of 11 per cent.