The 20 chickens that chicken rice seller Niven Leong prepares daily usually last from noon to 7pm. Yesterday, they were sold out at 1.30pm, barely two hours after his Uncle Chicken Rice stall in The Bedok Marketplace opened.
Up to 15 people were standing in line at lunchtime, waiting up to 25 minutes for their orders. Customers typically have to wait for five to 10 minutes during the busy period.
Most of the customers, who comprise a mixture of regulars and first-timers, flocked to the stall after reading The Straits Times article yesterday about how Mr Leong, 56, had sold his late father's Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice recipe to workplace safety officer Koh Teng Loke, 34, and information technology consultant Cheong Wai Fong, 36.
They each paid $42,800 for the recipe and hands-on training at the stall, which includes learning how to cook and chop the chicken, serving customers and managing inventory. The training period is open-ended and they can consult Mr Leong until he is satisfied with the quality of their food and they are ready to start their businesses.
Sin Kee is a well-known name among chicken rice stalls in Singapore. It started in 1971 at the nowdefunct Margaret Drive Food Centre. In 2002, it relocated to Mei Ling Street Food Centre and was helmed by Mr Leong's younger brother, Benson, until last year. He now runs Sin Kee Famous Cantonese Chicken Rice at Block 40, Holland Drive.
Mr Leong says he is "extremely pleased" to see a 40 per cent increase in customers at his stall. Some of those who turned up used to visit Sin Kee when it was located at Margaret Drive Food Centre, but had lost track of where the stall had moved to over the years.
Despite the surge in business, he is not planning to cook more chickens.
"I am contented with my current state of business," he says. "If I were to do more, it may have a ripple effect on the food production process, and it would be difficult to maintain the quality of the food."
He expects more people to ask about buying the recipe. He is in discussions with the Chang Cheng Group, a food and beverage company that owns coffee shops, on the possibility of his trainees setting up shop in its premises after they have completed their training.
Most of the diners The Straits Times spoke to thought that the $42,800 price tag for the chicken rice recipe and training was too low.
Financial adviser Timothy Chew, 29, who has visited the stall thrice, says: "The stall has been popular and it drew queues when it was at Mei Ling Street Food Centre. The chicken usually sells out fast, so the recipe deserves more value."
Civil servant Michael James, 49, who patronises Uncle Chicken Rice twice a week and has been a Sin Kee regular since its Margaret Drive days, says: "Paying $42,800 for a chicken rice recipe is not a big deal. As long as the new owners can replicate the old-school taste of the chicken rice, people will travel to eat it and the trainees can recover their investment."
Mr Eric Ho, 63, a managing director in an investment company, believes that the price tag is reasonable. He says: "This recipe is the family's intellectual property and needs to have a high value in today's market as it is quite unique."
However, some felt that the selling price was too steep.
One of them is housewife Karen Lim, 56, who travelled from Shenton Way to try the chicken rice after reading The Straits Times story.
"Chicken rice is quite a common dish that most people can cook," she says. "I can cook it at home, though the meat does not turn out as smooth as Uncle Chicken Rice's."