Jurong gets hawker centre run by social enterprise

Jurong West Hawker Centre, home to 34 cooked-food stalls and 14 market stalls, is managed on a not-for-profit basis. It is part of the NEA's efforts in exploring alternative management models for hawker centres, by engaging "socially conscious" opera
Jurong West Hawker Centre, home to 34 cooked-food stalls and 14 market stalls, is managed on a not-for-profit basis. It is part of the NEA's efforts in exploring alternative management models for hawker centres, by engaging "socially conscious" operators to improve operational efficiency while ensuring affordable food.PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Jurong West centre features smart tech like self-payment kiosks, and 'hawkerpreneurs'

For 20 years, Ms Lim Peck Ngoh worked in the engineering industry, but now she sells nasi lemak at Jurong West Hawker Centre, with a recipe handed down from her retired hawker mother.

Ms Lim, 42, is part of a scheme there aimed at injecting new blood into the hawker scene. She is one of six such hawkers working at the Jurong West Street 61 centre, which officially opened yesterday.

The centre is run by food centre operator Koufu's social enterprise subsidiary, Hawker Management, which, among other things, aims to groom and guide a new generation of hawkers or people interested in the trade.

Under the scheme, it has offered subsidies to the six "hawkerpreneurs" to lower their initial capital costs - such as through more affordable monthly rental rates starting at $1,500, free stall signs and free rent in the first month.

Ms Lim said the social enterprise guided her along in the early stages of the process by teaching her how to apply for a licence from the National Environment Agency.

Her career switch came out of a desire to carry on her mother's legacy. Her 72-year-old mother used to sell nasi lemak in Outram. "I hope to eventually set up a food empire in Singapore and overseas," said the hawkerpreneur.

Hawker Management chief operating officer David Yang said that the enterprise is offering practical support to stallholders to keep the hawker culture going and to help preserve traditional skills and flavours.

Under the scheme, Hawker Management has offered subsidies to the six "hawkerpreneurs" to lower their initial capital costs - such as through more affordable monthly rental rates starting at $1,500, free stall signs, as well as free rent in the first month.

"By working together with the community to impart, share and support an environment for the hawker trade to adapt and flourish, we hope to do our part to ensure hawker centres remain a place we hold dear for generations to come."

Jurong West Hawker Centre is home to 34 cooked-food stalls and 14 market stalls. The 500-seat centre is managed on a not-for-profit basis. Another of Hawker Management's aims is to keep prices low and pump back income into the centre and the community.

For instance, each cooked-food stall there sells two regular-portion dishes at $2.80 each.

Hawker Management also has plans to support community activities and help the needy. For instance, it will be distributing food vouchers to lower-income families.

The centre is part of the NEA's efforts in exploring alternative management models for hawker centres, by engaging "socially conscious" operators to improve operational efficiency while ensuring affordable food.

Mr Yang said interest in the scheme was good and that the social enterprise had received 80 applications.

Jurong West Hawker Centre is Koufu's first such centre and it comes with smart technology features, such as self-payment kiosks and smart tray-return machines.

Mr Patrick Tay, an MP for West Coast GRC, officially opened the centre alongside Pioneer MP Cedric Foo as well as Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and the Environment and Water Resources.

Mr Tay said that the hawker centre has been a "much-awaited addition" to the community. "I am pleased to see the residents are enjoying the variety of stalls and the modern conveniences offered."

Resident Kathy Quek, 34, a housewife, said she appreciates the convenience of having a new hawker centre near her home. "It is also good that people new to the hawker trade are given help and encouragement to create interesting food for the community."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2017, with the headline 'Jurong gets hawker centre run by social enterprise'. Print Edition | Subscribe