Ideas to keep hawker centres vibrant should keep flowing but in determining a recipe for success, the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee should not get carried away with the ingredients. Essentially, people want good hawker food at affordable prices. These are the reasons they often endure hot and stuffy eating places, bad table manners, the tissue packet brigade, and less than savoury facilities that would drive World Toilet Organisation founder Jack Sim to despair.
Hawkers want to keep street food traditions alive, a chance to make a decent living, and reasonable hours. With an average age of 59, many of them have persisted for many years despite having to endure the same conditions that sorely test hawker centre customers. Given the importance of nurturing a new generation of hawkers, the committee should ensure there are good business and better working conditions to attract the young, as many have other options available.
Hence, one should not get transported with enthusiasm for new activities such as mini-concerts and night markets near hawker centres. Some of these might be welcome, but it is worth noting that bands at a privately run food hall in Ayer Rajah - regarded by some as a hipster hawker centre of the future - only created "an unbearable cacophony" and did nothing to ease the "sweltering at all times of day and night", said a food critic. It is more critical instead to improve physical features and not squeeze operators and patrons into tight spaces. Hawker centres got a major upgrading only 15 years ago. That helped, but more needs to be done as they play a unique social role by bringing together people from all walks of life and providing much-loved street fare at affordable prices.