New fund for coffee shops and foodcourts to install more tray-return facilities

Patrons eat at Gourmet Paradise at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, on April 16, 2021.
Patrons eat at Gourmet Paradise at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, on April 16, 2021.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Coffee shops and foodcourts will soon have new funding to install more tray-return facilities as part of a nationwide campaign to get diners to clean up in public places.

Launched by the National Environment Agency (NEA), the Clean Tables Support Scheme will benefit about 1,125 coffee shops and 220 foodcourts here.

The move follows the installation of additional tray-return racks at hawker centres since February, when the Clean Tables Campaign was first rolled out.

Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor said that having "visible and accessible" tray-return stations was an important step to encouraging people to return trays.

"In some cases, there is a lack of tray return racks and even trays... If you can't see and can't locate it, you may not want to take the time to find it," she said.

Dr Khor was speaking to reporters after visits to Gourmet Paradise in Toa Payoh and Chang Cheng Mee Wah Coffeeshop in Woodlands, where she spoke with diners and stall owners about the importance of returning trays.

Doing so makes the "work of cleaners less strenuous and laborious", she said, freeing them to focus on sanitising tables and distributing trays and the crockery to stalls.

She also stressed that public standards of hygiene were the first line of defence against the spread of infectious diseases.

"Covid-19 is one; there could be future pandemics. So we really need to raise our standards of public health and hygiene particularly at public dining places where many people go to," she said.

Applications for the new Clean Tables Support Scheme open on May 1.

Under the scheme, coffee shops and hawker centres can be supported for up to 50 per cent of the costs they incur, capped at $2,500 per premises.

NEA will co-fund purchases made between May 1 and Oct 31 this year.

The scheme covers the cost of installing tray-return facilities such as racks and trolleys and the purchase of trays, which will make it more convenient for diners to return used crockery.

Meanwhile, NEA will install 75 more tray-return racks at hawker centres, adding to the 900 that are currently in place across the 111 centres it manages.

Each cooked-food stall holder will also be given 50 more trays.

Coffee shops and foodcourts have welcomed this initiative, which they say can reduce the manpower crunch the cleaning sector currently faces while increasing the number of diners they can serve.

The cleaning sector is currently facing a manpower crunch. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Mr Soh Koon Ghee, group general manager of Chang Cheng Mee Wah Coffeeshop, said that the lower salaries cleaners are paid make it hard to attract Singaporean workers, but he is limited by the number of foreign workers he can hire under the foreign worker quota.

Therefore, installing more tray-return racks across the 20 or so coffee shops he operates can reduce the burden of the cleaners he employs, who are older and cannot return trays as quickly.

A faster turnaround rate for tables is also good for operators, said Mr Choo Teck Chuan, chief operating officer of Koufu, which runs the Gourmet Paradise foodcourt.

"Some customers, because of a lack of seats and a reduction in seating capacity, will choose to go elsewhere if they can't find any available seats," he added.