Reinventing the hawker centre would kill its charm

Reinventing the hawker centre means making it what it is not, and this would cause it to lose its appeal (Reinvent the hawker experience, by Dr Patrick Liew Siow Gian; Sept 8).

Why do Singaporeans enjoy the hawker centre culture?

Hawker centres are conveniently located. There is variety. Often, we can find tasty, affordable, and familiar food that is local and close to our heart.

The non-air-conditioned setting may get too warm occasionally, but the casual atmosphere makes the experience of eating there unpretentious and fuss-free.

Simplicity of experience, variety of choices and affordability - these are the hallmarks of our hawker culture that have thrived for so many years. These are possible because hawker centres offer low overheads and are usually in good locations to attract customers, allowing hawkers to focus on their culinary craft and offer good food.

Singapore already has a diverse range of dedicated entertainment spots catering to "a wide spectrum of tastes, sights, sounds, smells and feelings", so there is no need to reinvent the hawker experience into something it is not.

Such an attempt at reinvention would also incur heavy costs. Would this be passed on to the customers, making the pricing no different from that at a foodcourt?

To reinvent the hawker centre experience is to dilute its identity.

To improve the hawker centre experience, we should focus instead on enhancing its simplicity, variety and affordability. We can attract the next generation of hawkers by focusing on the reason why people become hawkers: to make a good living.

Create an environment that makes it easy to enter the industry and possible for hawkers to continue offering cheap and good food.

Teo Chian Chye

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2018, with the headline 'Reinventing the hawker centre would kill its charm'. Print Edition | Subscribe