It was a morning of surprises yesterday as hawkers, restaurant owners and zi char stall operators received news that their outlets had been given the Bib Gourmand rating in the inaugural Michelin Guide for Singapore, to be launched on Thursday next week.
Many of them say they never suspected that Michelin inspectors had tried their food.
Business owners tell The Straits Times that they have been flooded with congratulatory text messages from their friends and loyal customers all day.
Mr Manfred Lim, 40, owner of Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee at Tiong Bahru Market, says: "I had no idea about the Bib Gourmand until customers started congratulating me as if I had struck lottery.
"This is an honour for my family as we have been running the stall for more than 30 years."
But while they are grateful for the recognition, many hawkers are also concerned about getting inundated with eager diners.
My friends had told me that Michelin inspectors were in town and said that maybe they would come to JB Ah Meng. I laughed and said that would be a joke. This honour shows that our hard work has been worth it.
MR WONG FONG, owner of Geylang zi char restaurant JB Ah Meng
Mr Max Cheong, 48, co-owner of Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, says: "I am happy with the award, but I will not be increasing the quantity of my food even though more people may visit my stall.
"I am already facing a manpower shortage and cannot handle the extra work."
Mr Daniel Soo, in his 60s, the owner of Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa in Hong Lim Food Centre, says: "My stall is already so popular even without this Bib Gourmand mention. With this award, I may have to work until my legs and hands turn to jelly as more people will find out about the shop."
At Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa at Alexandra Village Food Centre, owner Zhang Li Jin, 38, says: "Being recognised by the Michelin Guide will help me to cook with more confidence. We already have a 20- minute waiting time during lunch and can sell about 200 bowls of claypot laksa daily.
"I think more curious customers will come to check out the stall so I would advise them to come during off-peak hours."
Ms Kris Goh, 39, assistant at the nine-year-old Famous Crispy Curry Puff at Amoy Street Food Centre, says: "It is just me and my husband running the stall, we have no helper. For our type of business, we have to do it with care and cannot mass produce."
And like the rest of the hawkers, she insists that they will maintain their standards as well as current prices.
Geylang zi char restaurant JB Ah Meng's owner, Mr Wong Fong, better known as "Ah Meng" to diners, says: "My friends had told me that Michelin inspectors were in town and said that maybe they would come to JB Ah Meng. I laughed and said that would be a joke.
"This honour shows that our hard work has been worth it. It is as simple as that. We have never thought of expanding and we will continue to cook and keep up the standards."
The head of marketing for Cantonese restaurant Peony Jade, Mr Dominic Han, 34, says the accolade is not unexpected as he had met the Michelin Guide inspectors when they visited the restaurant's Keppel Club outlet early this year. There is another branch at Clarke Quay.
He says: "This is an affirmation for our team, especially when the market has slowed down this year.
"We always try to do something new for diners, but we will also stick to serving our traditional Chinese cuisine as we believe that is what the Michelin inspectors like."
• Additional reporting by Kenneth Goh and Benson Ang