Foodie spots Gluttons Bay, Satay By The Bay scraping by amid lack of tourists

Gluttons Bay founder KF Seetoh said rental rebates and regular diners have kept it afloat. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Two foodie spots featuring open-air venues with famous stalls, a format similar to the closed Chinatown Food Street, are scraping by, with business plummeting due to a dearth of tourists.

Makansutra Gluttons Bay, next to the Esplanade, and Satay by the Bay, at Gardens by the Bay, both said business has been poor.

Mr K.F. Seetoh, founder of Gluttons Bay, said rental rebates and regular diners have kept it afloat, adding that business has plummeted to just 20 per cent or less, compared with pre-Covid-19 times.

He said: "If you are selling local heritage hawker food, people can get it downstairs - there's no need to go to town.

"If you are doing something fancy in town, people will say they can wait until the pandemic is over before returning to eat."

Gluttons Bay opened in 1997 and has 12 stalls, including Old Satay Club Mee Goreng and Syifa' Satay.

Things worsened with hoarding put up for the ongoing construction of a new waterfront theatre, and offering delivery via online platform Oddle has not helped boost revenue, Mr Seetoh added.

There are three empty stalls, which Mr Seetoh said he has not tried to fill "because there's no point in asking people to open in a cemetery".

At Satay by the Bay, which opened in 2013, there are four empty stalls that its business development manager Wendy Loh has struggled to fill.

Business picks up for stalls such as Marina Live Seafood, City Satay and 26 @ Marina Bar & Bistro on weekends and when Gardens by the Bay holds events, she said.

However, the foodie spot is operating at less than half of its usual 600-seat capacity. In addition, with the current dine-in cap of two people, spending per person has also decreased.

Ms Loh said: "The choice of food ordered makes a difference. Previously, we would feed a family of five or a table of 10 that would order big portions of food to share.

"Now, when you split the tables, that does not mean people order double portions of food. Instead, they order less - like splitting one plate of horfun between two tables of only two diners."

Before it closed last Friday (Oct 22), the 20-year-old Chinatown Food Street featured stalls such as Famous Eunos Bak Chor Mee, Katong Keah Kee Fried Oysters, Siam Square Mookata and Boon Tat BBQ Seafood.

The 20-year-old Chinatown Food Street closed on Oct 22, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

It opened in 2001, went through a $4 million overhaul in 2013, and reopened in 2014 under the Select Group.

Its closure is the latest in a slew of pandemic-related casualties that have suffered from the lack of tourists.

In April, food hall Xin Tekka at Tekka Place mall in Little India closed after less than a year of operations.

The two-storey foodcourt opened to much fanfare in July last year and featured prominent brands such as noodle stall Pang's Hakka Noodles, Alhambra Satay, and Eurasian-Peranakan eatery Casa Bom Vento Express.

Xin Tekka at Tekka Place mall in Little India closed in April, after less than a year of operations. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

The space is now occupied by food hall Eatbox, run by the organisers of Artbox Singapore and Shilin Night Market. It includes an instant-noodle themed experience playground and a basement space for pop-up retail concepts.

Other eateries are riding out their last week of operations.

South-east Asian restaurant-bar Laut in Stanley Street, in Telok Ayer, runs till Saturday, while Good Luck Beerhouse in Haji Lane, in Kampong Glam, is open till Sunday.

For nine-year-old burger chain Omakase Burger, its Alice @ Mediapolis outlet in one-north operates till Saturday, while its other outlets at Orchard Central, Bukit Timah, Bedok, East Coast run till Sunday.

(Clockwise from top left) Laut, Omakase Burger and Good Luck Beerhouse are riding out their last week of operations. PHOTOS: ST FILE, LAUT, OMAKASE BURGER/FACEBOOK

Singapore's opening of vaccinated travel lanes with 13 countries has given Mr Seetoh some hope.

He said he is cautiously optimistic that tourists will return, even amid the restrictions, adding that it is time to champion Singapore's "Unesco story" again and reinvigorate the hawker scene.

The Republic's hawker culture was officially added to the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in December last year.

Mr Seetoh said: "Tourists will naturally flock to the Marina Bay and Chinatown areas. It will still help, it is better than nothing.

"We hang on, and believe better days are around the corner. It's a gamble."

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