Epicure

Saluting our resilient F&B industry

We pay tribute to our chefs and hawker centre cooks as they once again rose to the no dine-in challenge during the recent Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period, and pivoted flawlessly. Kudos and thank you.

- BY PRIYANKA ELHENCE

If we’ve learnt anything from the ongoing pandemic situation, it’s that F&B operators have to be able to adapt very quickly to keep up with government initiative­s and be flexible about their operations. Indeed, as we saw in the recent Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) phase, takeaways and delivery were the only means for restaurant­s and bars to stay afloat during the no dine-in period.The F&B industry was already hit very hard last year with the lockdown measures and dine-in restrictio­ns, with the sector reporting a year-on-year loss of almost 30 percent at the end of the third quarter in 2020.

With 2020 being a year of change for many, the F&B industry has metamorpho­sed into a completely different animal than before, showcasing the resilience of Singapore’s amazing F&B industry. If there is one thing to learn from last year, it is that innovation and a willingnes­s to adapt are absolutely key in running a successful business, be it restaurant­s or humble hawker centres and food stalls. And adapt they did!

For one, digitalisa­tion and being tech-savvy to stay afloat has become the must-have ingredient for F&B survival. Remember when even technology officers were deployed by the government to help older generation hawkers embrace digital ordering systems to help them beat the no dining-in phase? Handling takeaway orders, coordinati­ng deliveries, or even doing marketing on social media, it all boils down to technology and innovation.

We have also seen the rise of the younger generation coming in with a smarter skill set, taking advantage of the situation by embracing digitalisa­tion and using social media from the palm of their hands to market themselves effectivel­y. There has certainly been an explosion in the number of home-based businesses since last year, as these young entrants started off small with a low-risk approach that involved less financial commitment, then slowly expanding as they gained a foothold and fan following, and perhaps even ultimately converting to brick-and-mortar shop front.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, fine dining restaurant­s also upped their delivery creativity by hardly skipping a beat (or so it seemed). Many restaurant­s home delivered an impressive menu offering, and we salute their enormous effort and grit in making it happen, even with limited manpower.

While there are too many establishm­ents to call out by name, a particular one that stands out is two Michelin-starred Saint Pierre. Chef-owner Emmanuel Stroobant launched his innovative virtual Saint Pierre last year, an omakase bento experience complete with a Zoom meet-and-greet call from him, much to the delight of diners. This time, he introduced Room Service by Saint Pierre ($800/4–5 persons), an exclusive dinner experience for the very well-heeled (limited to 12 deliveries per day). Staff from Saint Pierre restaurant personally delivered the opulent multi-course meal to your doorstep, with all dishes plated on exquisite tableware, complete with the impeccable service and class that one has come to expect with Stroobant’s seal. If that’s not grit and resilience, what is?

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