Eating out

On the menu: Cheaper sets as restaurants battle gloom

NamNam Noodle Bar senior area manager Ms Chee (right) said the restaurant chain has made greater efforts to cater to price-conscious customers in its offerings.
NamNam Noodle Bar senior area manager Ms Chee (right) said the restaurant chain has made greater efforts to cater to price-conscious customers in its offerings.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR STRAITS TIMES

Singaporeans may be famously food-loving but eating out seems to be the first expense to go in an economic downturn.

Most restaurants and bars located in the downtown area interviewed by The Straits Times reported at least a 10 per cent drop in customers or turnover compared with last year.

Mr Philippe Pau, director of Bistro Du Vin at Shaw Centre, said Singaporeans react quickly to economic downturns.

"Companies and employees can sense straight away when things start to slow down and move to 'safe mode', which brings about more caution in spending," he said.

Mr Eldwin Chua, chief executive of the Paradise chain, said the group's high-end outlets like Chinese restaurant Paradise Pavilion at Marina Bay Financial Centre saw the biggest impact, with a "30 per cent fall in customers from last year, while its casual dining eateries such as Paradise Inn are down by 10 per cent".

Mr Chua has slashed the company's corporate expenditure by about 80 per cent. Instead of wining and dining his overseas business partners in the priciest Japanese restaurants, he chooses good restaurants that are cheaper.

Some Paradise restaurants introduced a 50 per cent discount for teatime earlier this year to help make up for lost revenue.

"We have to entice people to visit. Whatever is left of the pie, we snatch," said Mr Chua.


Many restaurants, including two in the Les Amis group - Vietnamese NamNam and Bistro du Vin - are offering more affordable options.

NamNam Noodle Bar senior area manager El Chee said: "While offering a value for money proposition to guests is not something new we have undertaken, greater effort has been made to cater to price-conscious guests looking for both quality and value." A new dinner set was introduced last October as well as an a la carte buffet option last month which allows diners to eat more at a fixed price.

Bistro Du Vin which serves French food, also introduced a two-course option, on top of its three-course lunch set.

Mr Wesley Gunter, director of a public relations firm, said eating out with three children can be quite expensive, so he and his wife cook on weekends, enticing the children with "more exciting dishes".

"As we tend to entertain friends on weekends, we have now resorted to organising house potluck parties instead of meeting at our usual hangouts to save costs," he added.

Mr Indra Kantono, co-founder of four bars, including Jigger and Pony and Gibson, said he made use of the slower pace to focus on training and to renovate his weakest-performing bar.

He remains upbeat, citing the success of great restaurants born out of the 2008 financial crisis in the US.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'On the menu: Cheaper sets as restaurants battle gloom'. Print Edition | Subscribe