How Swee Choon dim sum restaurant turned Covid-19 crisis into a business opportunity

Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant turned to online sales and continued to serve customers using food delivery services when Covid-19 hit, to minimise its losses from dine-in sales.
Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant turned to online sales and continued to serve customers using food delivery services when Covid-19 hit, to minimise its losses from dine-in sales.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - When Singapore entered the circuit breaker period in April, home-grown eatery Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant saw its sales plummet by around 30 per cent, while profits declined by about 40 per cent.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, it often had snaking queues outside its Jalan Besar outlet.

To minimise its losses from dine-in sales, the restaurant turned to online sales and continued to serve customers using food delivery services, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Nov 30) during a visit to Swee Choon.

It also stepped up on digital marketing and tapped additional food delivery platforms to reach more customers, with support from Enterprise Singapore's Food Delivery Booster Package to subsidise delivery costs, said Mr Chan.

The package was introduced in April, during the circuit breaker, and covered part of the commission charged by delivery platforms FoodPanda, Deliveroo and GrabFood.

Mr Chan said these efforts have helped to increase Swee Choon's sales from food delivery significantly, from less than 1 per cent to around 60 per cent of its existing average monthly revenue during the circuit breaker.

He added that while dine-in has resumed, food delivery sales continue to "contribute about 25 per cent to 30 per cent" of its monthly revenue, he added.

Adopting digital technologies has also helped Swee Choon understand where its customers order their food from, so that it can make better decisions about opening future outlets, said Mr Chan.

Mr Ernest Ting, the third-generation owner of Swee Choon, said the 58-year-old restaurant intends to open two more cloud kitchens, on top of the first one in Tampines that opened last week.

"There are plans to go up north in the Sengkang, Punggol area, and to the west. So these are three clusters that we have identified in the last few months where we want to have cloud kitchens," he added.

Cloud kitchens are centralised kitchens where two or more restaurants are located in the same space for delivery services.

On Monday, Mr Chan urged the food and beverage sector not to wait for the Covid-19 situation to blow over before thinking about new business models.

"Use the Covid-19 crisis, turn it into opportunity," he said.