Ramen stallholder starts website to raise brand awareness

Mr Tan Hock Soon, who runs the Ramen Taisho stall at Maxwell Food Centre, offers islandwide delivery on his own terms via his website ramen.sg.
Mr Tan Hock Soon, who runs the Ramen Taisho stall at Maxwell Food Centre, offers islandwide delivery on his own terms via his website ramen.sg.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Despite being on four food delivery platforms, Mr Tan Hock Soon receives only two to three online orders each day.

Since Covid-19 hit Singapore last year, business has fallen by 40 per cent, said the 49-year-old who runs the Ramen Taisho stall at Maxwell Food Centre.

The Sunday Times spoke to 40 hawkers in the Central Business District (CBD), all of whom say they have been hit hard.

With work from home as the default arrangement, offices in the CBD have been largely empty, with people more likely to visit or order from the eateries near where they live.

Mr Tan said: "Every time there's bad news, people stop going out. And now there is this hawker centre cluster in Bukit Merah."

His walk-in customers in the past week were half of what he saw the week before.

Standing out from the crowd is also challenging when there are more than 6,000 cooked food stallholders in 114 hawker centres islandwide.

Mr Tan is unwilling to pay extra to access the islandwide delivery option food delivery platforms offer.

He said: "Customers are also charged when they opt for islandwide delivery. They may not want to order because of the higher prices."

For example, one bowl of black garlic tonkotsu ramen would cost $7.80 at his stall, but he would have to charge about $12 on food delivery apps.

To offer islandwide delivery on his own terms and increase brand awareness, Mr Tan decided to start ramen.sg during the circuit breaker last year.

He said: "We don't have to give food delivery apps the commission fee. On ramen.sg, we can also keep prices the same to attract more customers."

Delivery is a flat $16 with Mr Tan tapping Lalamove. He currently receives about 12 orders via his website every week.

He remains on food delivery platforms to gain exposure and benefit from their large base of users.

Mr Tan also hopes to tap the marketing initiatives many of these platforms have rolled out to retain customers, such as the GrabRewards points customers can chalk up when they order from GrabFood.

Mr Tan said giving residents or office workers vouchers to spend on food sold at nearby hawker centres may incentivise them to visit the stalls.

"Many people may not even know that the hawker centres near them are available on food delivery apps."

Hawkers can also help one another by cross-promoting their products.

For instance, Mr Tan bundles his ramen orders with fruit juice that a neighbouring stall sells.