Budget fare on the menu at new Bukit Panjang hawker centre

Stallholder Loh Joo Heng, 58, at the Rice Garden stall in Old Airport Road hawker centre. The outlets offer budget fare as well as meals at lower prices for those on public assistance schemes.
Stallholder Loh Joo Heng, 58, at the Rice Garden stall in Old Airport Road hawker centre. The outlets offer budget fare as well as meals at lower prices for those on public assistance schemes. PHOTO: DANIEL NEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
MR PERRY ONG, NTUC Foodfare chief executive
MR PERRY ONG, NTUC Foodfare chief executive

All 28 cooked-food stalls at upcoming hawker centre will offer at least two low-cost main dishes

Stalls to get help to keep costs low

The new Bukit Panjang hawker centre will feature innovations to keep its fare tasty and affordable, The Straits Times has learnt.

All 28 cooked-food stalls will offer at least two low-cost main dishes and people on public assistance schemes will be able to have an economy-rice meal for just $1.50.

Social enterprise NTUC Foodfare will manage the centre, which is due to open by the end of the year.

It said it will reveal prices later, though The Straits Times understands that an example will be a basic economy-rice meal with one meat and two vegetable items available to all for much less than $2.90.

Fishball noodles, for example, will cost under $2.80. These prices are currently the lowest in the neighbourhood for those dishes, according to a survey of eateries in the area by NTUC Foodfare.

Other budget picks will include basic hawker fare such as chicken rice, prawn noodles, mee goreng, ban mian and char kway teow. NTUC Foodfare will also moderate the price of all other dishes.

BUDGET EATS

People go to hawker centres for great food, variety and affordability and we think we can provide those things at Bukit Panjang.

MR PERRY ONG, NTUC Foodfare chief executive

The social enterprise will itself offer an additional one-meat, two- vegetable economy-rice meal at $1.50 for people on public assistance schemes through its Rice Garden stall at the centre and other places. The Rice Garden stalls, found across Singapore, already serve the same meal at $2 for students, senior citizens, full-time national servicemen and NTUC union members. Other diners pay $2.70.

NTUC Foodfare chief executive Perry Ong told The Straits Times: "People go to hawker centres for great food, variety and affordability and we think we can provide those things at Bukit Panjang."

The social enterprise will also help hawkers to keep costs low.

For instance, they will get help in applying for grants to set up shop. The hawkers may also be able to pay less for basic ingredients such as cooking oil, flour and eggs if they take advantage of NTUC Foodfare's bulk-purchasing power.

  • Cap on prices, thanks to social enterprises

  • Two social enterprises have been appointed by the National Environment Agency to run hawker centres here so far, as part of efforts to keep food affordable and meet other social objectives.

    NTUC Foodfare now manages the hawker centre at Block 208B, New Upper Changi Road, in Bedok, and will also operate the Bukit Panjang hawker centre, slated to open by the end of this year.

    Fei Siong Food Management, which manages 107 food outlets and stalls islandwide, will use a social enterprise subsidiary to run the hawker centre at Ci Yuan Community Club in Hougang, which opens next month.

    The social enterprises are to operate on a not-for-profit basis, and must ensure a good variety of affordable and hygienic food.

    Fei Siong and NTUC Foodfare have promised price caps on some basic hawker fare. Fei Siong will require each stall at the Ci Yuan centre to sell at least two dishes for under $2.80. These include dishes like chicken rice, fishball noodles and economy rice.

    It also clarified an online report which claimed hawkers who join its entrepreneurship programme and runstalls at the Ci Yuan centre will get only 25 per cent of the stall's revenue and be removed if sales targets are not met.

    Fei Siong said there is no sales target. While participants do get only 25 per cent of the stall's revenue, they do not pay for the costs. These include table cleaning, pest control, ingredients and rental.

    Feng Zengkun

It currently operates a catering service and runs 71 foodcourts, coffee shops, food kiosks and cafes across the country.

The same help was also extended to the hawkers at the centre in Block 208B, New Upper Changi Road, in Bedok, which NTUC Foodfare also manages. However, no one took up the offer. Hawkers there said they preferred to stick with their long-time suppliers.

Mr Ong added that some were afraid their food would taste the same as their competitors' if they used the same ingredients.

NTUC Foodfare will also set aside a few stalls for new entrants to the hawker trade and those who want to run social programmes.

Bukit Panjang housewife Iris Chua, 55, who buys takeaway meals more than three times a week, said: "The prices sound quite reasonable and the fishball noodles are definitely cheaper.

"I just hope the food standard is good and there is enough parking space for everyone."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'Budget fare on the menu at new hawker centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe