“Get rid of the bidding process,” says Kf Seetoh and suggests fair rental system for hawker center booth

SINGAPORE — “Get rid of the bidding process,” Makansutra founder Kf Seetoh said in response to recent news coverage of vacant stalls at the bustling Amoy Street Food Centre.

Mr Seetoh criticized the practice of bidding for hawkers to get a stall in the hawker centre, arguing that the government should get rid of them and offer fair rents and give them to the most deserving hawkers.

8worldChinese media in Singapore recently reported that at least 15 stalls are currently vacant at this famous food hub.

When asked for comment, some hawkers said that was not always the case, citing that there were almost no vacant stalls before the pandemic.

A stall owner who wished to remain anonymous revealed that some of the vacant stalls were run by young entrepreneurs who were first-time hawkers.

But many of these young hawkers closed their stalls after a few months, due to high starting rent and the inability to generate enough income to make ends meet.

Amoy Street Food Center is one of the favorite dining spots near the central business district and is operated by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

According to NEA, the occupancy rate of stalls at the food center was around 90% last month, out of a total of 135 stalls.

Street vendors must submit monthly rental bids during NEA’s monthly tenders to secure a stall there. Stands are allocated to the highest bidder.

Former cafe sellers accustomed to higher rents

Zheng Xiangming, a 37-year-old beverage stall owner, said the 15 stalls have been vacant for a few months now.

He suggested that another reason for the exit of these peddlers is that many former coffee vendors have overbid their rental prices and have been unable to sustain their stalls for the long term.

Some former coffee shop vendors have been encouraged to offer high rental prices due to heavy rent and utility subsidies provided by the government during the pandemic.

“Some of the stalls listed have moved cafes here. They believe vendors at hawker centers receive government subsidies during the outbreak, so it is safer to set up stalls at hawker centers.”

He added that these vendors have moved here due to rising cafe rents. They are all used to high rents and are ready to bid on any amount.

Kf Seetoh: just remove the bidding process

However, Kf Seetoh, the famous food critic from Singapore, pointed out that it is not the street vendors’ fault that they offer high prices for a stall.

“It’s the Bid concept. The government is building hawker centers with public funds to protect micro food businesses and keep prices as low as possible to feed the masses.”

“But,…they make you bid and tell you to keep menu prices low. Desperation and greed naturally set in. Everyone wants a stall in their favorite malls,” KF Seetoh said.

Kf Seetoh, who is also a strong supporter of Singapore peddlers, said it just doesn’t fit because everyone needs to earn money in these uncertain times.

Instead, the authorities should just get rid of the bidding process, offer a fair rental, and give it to the most deserving, whether it’s based on menu, talent, and preserving the unique food culture of Singapore.

Kf Seetoh is currently leading efforts to develop Singapore’s authentic hawker culture, with Urban peddler brought food to New York in September of this year.

The food market features 17 stalls, 11 of which are run by real Singaporean street vendors, selling everything kaya toast at chicken rice and white bee.

NEA: Vacant hawker stalls are filled in three months

Amoy Street Food Center was closed from last October to January this year for renovation.

Regarding vacant stalls, NEA said most of these stalls are currently being restored to their original configuration.

NEA added that most vacant hawker stalls are filled within three months of the tenders being launched.

According NEA websitethere were three successful bids in August for Amoy Street Food Centre, which ranged between $3,200 and $3,633.

The highest monthly rental offer ever received for the food center stand was $4,988 in 2018. The second highest offer came in February for $4,688.

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