Heritage F&B brand Swee Kee to shutter amid Covid-19 challenges

Swee Kee Eating House, known for its Cantonese-style fish soup, will be shuttering its Amoy Street outlet on May 30, 2021.
Swee Kee Eating House, known for its Cantonese-style fish soup, will be shuttering its Amoy Street outlet on May 30, 2021.PHOTOS: SWEE KEE EATING HOUSE/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Heritage business Swee Kee Eating House will be shuttering its outlet on May 30, 2021, it said in a Facebook post.

Located along Amoy Street for over 26 years, the Cantonese-style fish soup shop has a history of more than 80 years.

"We had weathered the World War, economic depression and Sars; however, the challenges of Covid-19 and a CBD (Central Business District) location have proved too much and too challenging for us to sustain with continued monthly losses in this current climate," wrote Cedric Tang, third-generation owner of the business.

The group will now consolidate its resources to focus on its Ka-Soh brand, which has two outlets in Outram and Greenwood.

"Swee Kee Eating House has always been more than a business or restaurant, it was also my home which I grew up in with since the days at Chin Chew Street," he wrote. "We are extremely honoured to be part of Singapore's history and one of Singapore's oldest independent/family-owned restaurants."

Mr Tang told The Business Times that the "writing has been on the wall" since recovery from the pandemic has been slow, with the food and beverage (F&B) businesses in the central business district "greatly affected".

"I believe even those who saw a slight recovery have all their gains wiped out just by this week alone," he said.

Singapore instituted a one-month ban on dining in since May 16, triggered by a rise in Covid-19 community cases. Working from home is now the default, which means that F&B operators in the CBD are likely to struggle.

Mr Tang noted that while many of Swee Kee's regulars - mostly from the older generation who have patronised the outlet for decades - have returned following Singapore's circuit breaker measures last year, this was not enough to keep the business going. This is despite offering delivery options through the Oddle platform.

"It's definitely very hard to have to decide to close Amoy, but it makes the most sense as we're also facing manpower issues across our outlets, which is why we will be redeploying most of my staff to the remaining outlets," he said.

But die-hard fans need not be too dismayed. Mr Tang added that following the closure, he will try to bring Swee Kee's signature flavours to its Ka-Soh restaurants.

The month-long ban on dining-in is expected to be a setback to F&B operators, especially for those that had recently opened or expanded with new outlets. It is also a blow to illiterate, elderly hawkers as they are unable to tap into delivery platforms.

To prop up the industry, the government will raise its wage support for F&B establishments to 50 per cent, up from 10 per cent, under the Jobs Support Scheme.