Address lack of capacity to tackle 'choping'

Large circular tables at hawker centres take up considerable floor space but provide lower seating capacity. The use of square or rectangular tables in a linear layout would be more space-efficient, said the writer.
Large circular tables at hawker centres take up considerable floor space but provide lower seating capacity. The use of square or rectangular tables in a linear layout would be more space-efficient, said the writer.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

I agree with Dr William Wan that "choping" is an unsavoury and, at times, frustrating practice that should be strongly discouraged ('Choping' is not gracious; April 9).

However, we must recognise that what drives people to reserve their seats is a lack of capacity at many hawker centres and foodcourts to accommodate an overwhelming demand.

It thus stands to reason that increasing the number of available tables would ease the crunch and reduce the need for seat-hogging.

Many of our hawker centres feature a decidedly antiquated seating layout, with many large circular tables. These take up considerable floor space while providing lower seating capacity overall.

We should, therefore, consider replacing them with more space-efficient configurations, such as having square or rectangular two- and four-seat tables in a linear layout.

Provisions should also be made to better accommodate the majority of patrons who are dining alone or in pairs, such that they do not occupy entire tables intended for larger groups.

If we are willing to invest still more in our hawker centres, the authorities could even consider implementing a traffic monitoring system that informs visitors of the number of seats still available.

This allows them to go elsewhere rather than wait around aimlessly.

A practice as ingrained in the popular consciousness as "choping" cannot so easily be weeded out by a top-down approach.

As with most cultural shifts, the change needs to start from the ground up in order to be a lasting one.

Singaporeans need to take it upon themselves to resist the urge to chope.

Increasing numbers will follow suit once they realise that their peers have disavowed the practice.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2017, with the headline 'Address lack of capacity to tackle 'choping''. Print Edition | Subscribe