Nine out of 10 diners say hawkers facing escalating operating costs are justified in increasing their food prices, a Straits Times survey has found.
Of 100 diners interviewed during the past two days, 89 said they would not object to paying more in the current climate of rising rental, labour and ingredient costs.
The top two reasons given were that they understand that hawkers have no choice and that they need to earn a living.
But 16 of the 89 said any price rise should not be too large, with 20 to 30 cents an acceptable amount.
The remaining 11 diners who said "no" said that hawker food prices should be kept low to cater for the working class.
The maximum prices that Singaporeans would pay for three popular dishes were $3 for fishball noodles, $3 for chicken rice and $1 for plain roti prata, the survey also found.
All of those interviewed said that hawker food is currently priced reasonably.
The ST poll follows a recent Case survey of 541 non-air-conditioned eateries which found that the most common amounts charged are $2.50 for chicken rice, $3 for fishball noodles and 80 cents for plain roti prata.
Office cleaner and mother of three Candy Wai, who earns $700 a month, said: "We all know that everything is going up in price. We are working people too, we know how hard it is to survive."
The Tampines resident, who had been queuing at a mixed vegetable rice stall in the neighbourhood, added: "Here, I can buy a meal for five people for just $12. As long as I don't buy fish."
Businessman David Phan, 49, who was dining at the Old Airport Road hawker centre, said: "If rental is high, it eats up profit.
"Hawkers are careful about increasing prices too because they don't want to chase away customers."
Diner Chris Ng, 39, who works in an advertising firm, said that an increase of about 30 cents per dish would be justified if hawkers' costs did go up.
However, some diners worry that price rises could be overtaking their ability to pay.
Student Lee Jing Wei, 21, said: "With all things, price will definitely increase. No reason to complain. But the question is if the rise is in tandem with our pay rise."
A minority of diners, such as clerk Judy Lek, 50, said that hawkers should not increase prices.
"The food should be affordable for everybody," she said. "If the price goes up by too much, how will people who are less well off be able to afford it? Prices should be average or lower."
Mr Tom Goh, 60, who works at a laundromat, believes diners should vote with their wallets.
"If the food gets too expensive, but isn't good, just don't eat from them," he said.
JESSICA LIM, DEBBIE LEE, KASH CHEONG, EUGENE CHUA, RACHEL TAN, CHENG JINGJIE