Long queues at Lim Chee Guan as it opens stores for walk-ins after online bak kwa sale

Long queues form outside the flagship Lim Chee Guan store at New Bridge Road, on Feb 9, 2021. ST PHOTO: JESSIE LIM
There were 75 people queueing to buy bak kwa at Lim Chee Guan’s flagship store on Tuesday morning. ST PHOTO: JESSIE LIM

SINGAPORE - Long queues formed outside Lim Chee Guan's Chinatown and Jewel Changi Airport outlets on Tuesday morning (Feb 9) as shoppers rushed to do some last-minute shopping for bak kwa.

Some joined the queues as early as 8am, although the outlets open after 9am.

Lim Chee Guan said it opened its stores on Monday to walk-in customers after all its barbecued products were sold out online, and will continue to sell its bak kwa till Wednesday, or while stocks last.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for the company said on Tuesday that it had received requests from customers to produce more bak kwa after its online orders closed.

The heritage brand said last month it was moving online for its Chinese New Year sales for the first time to ensure the safety of its customers.

In a Facebook post on Monday, the bak kwa chain reminded customers to observe safe distancing measures and wear their masks at all times while queueing.

When The Straits Times visited Lim Chee Guan's flagship store in New Bridge Road on Tuesday morning, there were 75 people queueing to buy bak kwa.

With many customers having bought their bak kwa online earlier, the queues are shorter than the ones in previous years, when hundreds of people would queue outside the stores, with some waiting in line for five hours.

On Tuesday, shoppers at the New Bridge Road outlet maintained 1m apart from one another, while staff handed out stools to seniors so they could sit down while waiting for their turn.

For some shoppers such as Ms Annie Chng, 65, word of mouth brought her to Lim Chee Guan despite the hot sun and snaking queues.

"I have never tried this bak kwa but my friends in their 50s and 60s say it is good," said Ms Chng, who works part-time at a Singapore Pools outlet.

Also in the queue was Briton Thomas Earle, 43. The United States-based chef is in Singapore to celebrate Chinese New Year with his Singaporean wife and their child.

"My wife loves this store, she grew up eating this bak kwa. The store has been around since 1938. If I don't try it, I'm never going to live it down," he said.

At the People's Park Complex outlet, engineer Lim Choon Wei, 39, began queueing at 9.30am although the store officially opens at 10am.

This was his second time visiting the same outlet, which was out of bak kwa by the time he arrived on Monday.

As to why he did not purchase from other bak kwa stores in the vicinity, Mr Lim said: "My wife asked me to buy this brand. This one is famous, a lot of people share it on Facebook."

People queueing at the Lim Chee Guan storefront on level B2 at Jewel Changi Airport at about 10.20am on Feb 9, 2021. ST PHOTO: NATALIE TAN
Lim Chee Guan customers queueing on level B3 of Jewel Changi Airport on Feb 9, 2021. ST PHOTO: NATALIE TAN

Meanwhile, there was no queue at the Ion Orchard outlet, as walk-in purchases begin only in the afternoon. ST understands that on Tuesday morning, shoppers paid for their purchases, which will be ready for collection later in the day.

"Buying bak kwa during the season is a yearly affair. I'm okay with the pre-order arrangement as I can come and collect during the evening," said Ms Leanne Tay, 35, who works in banking.

Over at Jewel Changi Airport, queues began forming at 8am and there were 80 people in line when ST visited.

Air stewardess Vicky Wee, 61, was supposed to board a plane for Bangkok but made a beeline to the outlet once she was told the flight was cancelled due to technical difficulties.

"It's really a blessing. I thought I would have to forgo my Lim Chee Guan bak kwa this year. Something would be missing if I didn't have it. So I'm really happy that I'm in the queue," she said.

There was a queue of 18 people paying for bak kwa at 12pm at the Lim Chee Guan outlet at Ion Orchard on Feb 9, 2021. ST PHOTO: SHERLYN SIM

There is a limit to how much shoppers can purchase. At the New Bridge Road outlet, shoppers can purchase up to 50kg per order. The limit is 20kg per order at the People's Park Complex outlet and 5kg at both Jewel Changi Airport and Ion Orchard.

"Certain outlets are smaller in size and hence they would not be able to stock as much of the product," said the Lim Chee Guan spokesman.

In its Facebook post, Lim Chee Guan thanked its customers for the "enormous amount of support and requests" it has received. The online demand for its bak kwa was overwhelming, with its website crashing due to high traffic at one point.

It added that all of its outlets will be closed from Feb 11 to 13.

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