Eat, drink and maybe sing at hawker centres?

Participants at the SGFuture discussion on Our Future Hawker Centres at the Future of Us exhibition yesterday.
Participants at the SGFuture discussion on Our Future Hawker Centres at the Future of Us exhibition yesterday.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Live music and open mic sessions among suggestions made at SGFuture discussion

Live music could be a regular feature at neighbourhood hawker centres in the future as part of a move to transform them into more than just places to eat.

This was among the suggestions put forth at "Our Future Hawker Centres".

This is an engagement session held by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources yesterday as part of the SGFuture conversations.

Hosted at the Future of Us exhibition, it was attended by about 50 participants made up of hawkers, hawker association representatives, and hawker centre managing agents.

It was aimed at gathering ideas on how to sustain hawker culture in Singapore, and make hawker centres more vibrant.

"They could have open mic sessions, with live musicians and even comedians," said 24-year-old management consulting analyst Charmaine Pek, who attended the session with her friend, student Sarah Cheong, out of an interest in food and sustainability issues.

Other suggestions to attract more customers included integrating hawker centres into community centres, as was done with the Ci Yuan Community Club in August last year.

Another popular topic was how to attract more people to become hawkers.

Mr Fabian Toh, who runs a traditional Cantonese dessert stall in Chinatown with his parents, said new hawkers are often unwilling to accept low profit margins, leading the stalls to close within a short period of time.

"The fastest I've seen a stall close is within five days," said 34-year-old Mr Toh.

Food blogger Leslie Tay said that one of the obstacles facing new hawkers is high costs.

"If younger hawkers taking over older stalls are given heritage status to enjoy subsidies, that would be helpful," said Dr Tay.

Other suggestions included the use of data analytics to determine customer preferences and reintroducing pushcarts as a low-cost alternative to stalls for prospective hawkers.

The session was attended by Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story stated that the community club integrated with a hawker centre is called Cei Yuan Community Club. It should be Ci Yuan Community Club. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Eat, drink and maybe sing at hawker centres?'. Print Edition | Subscribe