The Government's move to have social enterprises play a bigger role in managing hawker centres will help keep hawker food affordable, while making sure that centres are clean and productive, and their patrons gracious.
On Tuesday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced that another nine hawker centres would be run on a not-for-profit basis next year.
There are now four hawker centres managed by social enterprises, with NTUC Foodfare running two of them. It will manage another seven by next year.
Rather than focusing on the bottom line, social enterprises aim to ensure that meals are kept affordable and hawker centres are kept vibrant.
There are 110 hawker centres managed by NEA or NEA-appointed agents.
On July 1 next year, NTUC Foodfare, which operates centres in Bedok and Bukit Panjang, will take over the management of five existing centres - one each in Toa Payoh Lorong 5, Old Airport Road, Chong Pang, and two in Whampoa Drive.
It will also manage two new centres in Kampung Admiralty and Pasir Ris Central when they are completed in the middle of next year.
This will help it enjoy economies of scale.
To keep prices low, NTUC Foodfare currently sets the maximum price allowed for some basic dishes at its Bukit Panjang centre, and monitors the price increase of such dishes at the Bedok centre.
At the five centres it will take over, there will be no price caps, but increases will be subject to approval. Subsidised stallholders will continue to enjoy subsidised rental rates.
Apart from keeping food affordable, such hawker centres have to maintain high standards of cleanliness.
They are also encouraged to propose measures to be productive, promote graciousness among patrons and stallholders, and recycle food waste.
And by giving hawkers a boost by keeping costs low and allowing them to earn a decent income, the new model could well keep Singapore's hawker heritage alive as well.