SINGAPORE - Fifteen hawkers were awarded for their efforts in sustaining Singapore's prized hawker culture at the SG Hawker Seminar on Monday (April 11).
Awards were given out in three categories - the Promising New Hawker Award, the Hawker Heritage Award and the Enterprising Hawker Award - in the event organised by the Federation of Merchants' Associations (FMAS) and supported by the National Environment Agency.
Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, presented the awards during the ceremony held at Our Tampines Hub.
She said: "Covid-19 has greatly impacted the lives of our hawkers... Our hawkers, who are our frontline heroes, have managed to emerge stronger, showing great tenacity and resilience."
There were five recipients of the Hawker Heritage Award, which recognises multi-generational brands for their contributions to the continuation of hawker culture.
Four hawkers were awarded the Enterprising Hawker Award for their efforts to innovate and implement new tools and strategies to grow their businesses, while there were six recipients of the Promising New Hawker Award for showing potential in sustaining their budding businesses.
A new award, the Progressive Hawker Centre Award, was awarded to 10 hawker centres at the ceremony.
Dr Khor said ensuring cleanliness, driving digitalisation and productivity and enhancing vibrancy through programming are crucial factors in future-proofing Singapore's hawker trade.
Such efforts are even more pertinent in navigating the Covid-19 endemic, she added.
The winners were selected from a pool of 111 hawkers by a panel of five judges, which included hawker food advocates.
Many of the winners had shifted their businesses online and tapped on food delivery platforms during the pandemic - moves that are in line with changing consumer behaviour.
Currently, about 50 per cent of over 6,000 cooked food stall holders are on board food delivery services, and almost 70 per cent have implemented e-payment methods, said Dr Khor.
During his speech at the awards ceremony, Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, president of FMAS, said hawker culture is integral to the life of Singaporeans.
He said: "Through the stories of exemplary hawkers, we hope to inspire fellow hawkers to do better and more budding hawkers to join our hawker trade and safeguard our hawker heritage for future generations."
Mr Ng Poh Hian, 36, a recipient of the Enterprising Hawker Award, is among those who have their menus listed on food-delivery platforms.
The owner of Lagoon In A Bowl, which sells Japanese-Western fusion rice bowls, also started to tap on social media platforms to receive delivery orders when footfall at his stall fell to zero during the lockdown in mid-2020.
Delivery orders soon made up 60 per cent of his revenue, he said.
Mr Ng said business is picking up with the easing of safety measures, and traffic at Amoy Street Food Centre is now at 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
He said: "I want to let hawkers know that it is important to have social media presence and (to) bring your business online."
Mr Roimy Kassim, a recipient of the Promising New Hawker Award, encouraged his fellow hawkers to look towards digital solutions such as marketing their menus and receiving orders on social media platforms.
The 29-year-old, who runs Western fusion cuisine stall Brostern with three friends, turned to social media to advertise group-buy collaborations across the different hawker stalls in Ci Yuan Hawker Centre in Hougang.
Companies, polyclinics, offices and schools have placed orders which mix and match items from stalls across the hawker centre via Brostern's social media accounts, said Mr Roimy.
The owners of Brostern coordinate these orders for the stall holders who are less digitally savvy.
Mr Roimy said: "We've been doing this at no extra charge and zero commission. This is out of genuine passion to help one another.
“We are here to help elder hawkers get on board the digital world and help them boost their businesses so we can grow together and maintain harmony like the golden years before."
Yishun Park Hawker Centre, which won the Progressive Hawker Centre Award, implemented e-payment across all stalls, and configured an in-house application that provides patrons with discounts.
Centres were assessed based on criteria such as their tray and crockery return rates and implementation of hawker productivity initiatives.