F&B out­lets seek rent re­bates from malls to stay af loat

Amid con­cerns of rev­enue fall­ing by up to 80%, restau­rant as­so­ci­a­tion fears some busi­nesses may close

The New Paper - - FRONT PAGE - TA­TIANA MO­HAMAD ROSLI

Reel­ing from the im­pact of the coro­n­avirus out­break, the food and bev­er­age (F&B) sec­tor is seek­ing help from land­lords to ride out this rough patch.

Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion of Sin­ga­pore (RAS) pres­i­dent Vin­cent Tan said yes­ter­day that the liveli­hoods of close to 200,000 work­ers at the 12,000 F&B out­lets here could be at stake.

With its mem­bers ex­pect­ing rev­enues to plunge by 50 per cent to 80 per cent over the next three months, the RAS has ap­proached 24 shop­ping mall land­lords for rental re­bates to help their F&B tenants tide over this dif­fi­cult pe­riod.

The sec­tor’s con­cerns came as eight more cases of Covid-19 in­fec­tions were an­nounced yes­ter­day, in­clud­ing five that are linked to a clus­ter at the Grace As­sem­bly of God church.

Mr Tan said at a press con­fer­ence that let­ters were sent out on Mon­day to 24 mall oper­a­tors, in­clud­ing ma­jor play­ers such as Cap­i­taLand, Frasers and Maple­tree, to lower ren­tals from February to April.

“Look­ing at the sit­u­a­tion right now, we are hop­ing for at least 50 per cent rental re­bate for the first three months,” Mr Tan said.

None of the land­lords has com­mit­ted to a rental re­bate, but some have said they would boost mar­ket­ing ef­forts such as free parking to at­tract cus­tomers.

They said they would talk to tenants in­di­vid­u­ally to bet­ter un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion.

Even be­fore the let­ters went out, Jewel Changi Air­port of­fered its tenants a 50 per cent rental re­bate for February and March, which the as­so­ci­a­tion is grate­ful for.

RAS also sent a let­ter last Satur­day to Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Chan Chun Sing to ask for, among other things, a sus­pen­sion of the for­eign worker levy, wage sup­port by cov­er­ing half the em­ploy­ers’ Cen­tral Prov­i­dent Fund con­tri­bu­tions and higher ac­cess to work­ing cap­i­tal loans.

In a poll by RAS, al­most 60 per cent of its mem­bers said they were not pre­pared for and equipped to han­dle the sud­den im­pact of the out­break, which led to a big drop in vis­i­tor ar­rivals.

The RAS, which has 450-plus mem­bers op­er­at­ing about 4,000 out­lets, is one of the big­gest F&B as­so­ci­a­tions.

Mr Tan, who is manag­ing di­rec­tor of Se­lect Group that owns F&B chains such as Peach Garden and Texas Chicken, said some busi­nesses could go un­der un­less they get help soon.

He said that rent and wages typ­i­cally make up more than half of an F&B out­let’s op­er­at­ing cost here, and prof­itabil­ity had been low at 1.7 per cent even be­fore the out­break.

Many restau­rants had al­ready cut part-time work­ers and are try­ing to avoid re­trench­ments and clo­sures, he added.

The as­so­ci­a­tion’s pres­i­dent ad­viser, Mr Andrew Ti­joe, said some busi­nesses could take years to re­cover, even af­ter the

Covid-19 sit­u­a­tion ends.

Al-Azhar Group chief ex­ec­u­tive Muham­mad Husain Man­soor told The New Paper its two out­lets in Tampines and Bukit Timah have seen a 40 per cent fall in cus­tomers while costs have gone up due to the need to ramp up clean­ing fre­quen­cies.

INI­TIA­TIVES

Other help ini­tia­tives an­nounced yes­ter­day in­clude: A $77 mil­lion pack­age to help taxi and pri­vate-hire driv­ers with­stand a sharp drop in business dur­ing this pe­riod. The Gov­ern­ment is con­tribut­ing $45 mil­lion, with taxi and pri­vate-hire com­pa­nies top­ping up the pack­age. About 40,000 driv­ers will qual­ify for a $20 re­lief daily for three months from to­day. All main taxi hir­ers and pri­vate-hire driv­ers who com­pleted at least 200 trips a month from Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber last year will be el­i­gi­ble. Those who do not qual­ify can tap a $2.7 mil­lion fund set up by the Gov­ern­ment and the Na­tional Trades Union Congress.

Banks are rolling out re­lief pack­ages for their cus­tomers, in par­tic­u­lar small and medium-sized en­ter­prises (SMEs). They in­clude DBS Bank of­fer­ing a six-month debt mora­to­rium on prin­ci­pal re­pay­ments for prop­erty loans to SMEs and mort­gages for home own­ers, OCBC Bank re­struc­tur­ing cus­tomer loans and pro­vid­ing a mora­to­rium on prin­ci­pal re­pay­ment and United Over­seas Bank un­veil­ing a $3 bil­lion pack­age for cor­po­rate cus­tomers, es­pe­cially SMEs.

The Gov­ern­ment is pay­ing the hos­pi­tal bills in full of coro­n­avirus pa­tients who are ad­mit­ted to pub­lic hos­pi­tals. This cov­er­age does not ex­tend to out­pa­tient treatment at gen­eral prac­ti­tioner clin­ics or poly­clin­ics, nor does it ap­ply to treatment sought at pri­vate med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, the Min­istry of Health said yes­ter­day.– AD­DI­TIONAL RE­PORT­ING BY OS­MOND CHIA

TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Jewel Changi Air­port of­fered its tenants a 50 per cent rental re­bate for February and March.

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