Hawker culture

Forum: Address issues of financial viability and succession planning

Lunchtime crowd at the Maxwell Food Centre.
Lunchtime crowd at the Maxwell Food Centre.PHOTO: ST FILE

It is heartening that Singapore's bid to get its hawker culture added to the Unesco intangible cultural heritage list has been given a leg-up (Boost for Singapore's hawker culture Unesco bid, Nov 18).

Singapore's unique hawker culture will indeed be lost if the issues of financial viability and continuity are not addressed.

In the ongoing conversations on preserving Singapore's hawker culture, ensuring financial viability by addressing the practical challenges faced by hawkers - such as rising production costs - should be prioritised because our hawkers need to earn a living to feed their families too, just like everyone else.

Preserving Singapore's hawker culture is also a matter of succession planning and attracting talent with the passion and aptitude.

Creating clarity of purpose by engaging next-generation hawkers with narratives could be one way to achieve this - sharing and documenting stories of famous people who have savoured their hawker fare through the years, or how seemingly insurmountable odds were beaten to turn the business around.

Next-generation hawkers could also appreciate that they are continuing traditions built on specific values that carry great responsibility and honour. They could have faithful customers, for instance, for whom savouring their hawker food has become ritual, and it is entirely contingent upon these next-generation hawkers to keep alive these traditions and rituals.

Unesco listing or not, it behoves us to deep dive into these and other relevant variables if we are to safeguard and preserve Singapore's delectable epicurean tapestry.

Woon Wee Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2020, with the headline 'Address issues of financial viability and succession planning'. Print Edition | Subscribe