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Dim sum brand Red Star says it’s hard to continue: burns S$100K a month, biz falls 90%

Red Star

Due to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, Singapore had to revert to tightened social interactions and the default state of working from home under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).

Dining in at food and beverage (F&B) establishments is disallowed, and eateries can only offer takeaways and deliveries. Furthermore, people will be allowed to gather in groups of up to two, down from five.

Hooi Kok Wai, co-owner of 47-year-old dim sum restaurant Red Star said in an interview with TODAY that the 80-table restaurant had seen a drastic drop in business since the start of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).

The heritage dim sum restaurant has been popular among Singaporeans for many years, and even used to be regularly booked out for events on 15 out of 30 days each month.

However, despite being listed on delivery platforms, the brand has seen a 90 per cent drop in earnings during this period.

The 82-year-old chef said that the restaurant only gets around S$2,000 worth of orders on weekends, and at most S$1,000 on weekdays.

To add on, the 80-seater restaurant’s operating costs stand at more than S$100,000 each month, especially since it started paying for the accommodations of the Malaysians amongst its workforce.

Red Star employs around 50 employees, and has not retrenched any of them since the Malaysia-Singapore border closed in March 2020. Hooi said that the restaurant had only cut 20 to 30 of its part-time and adhoc staff so far.

However, he told TODAY that if the current Covid-19 restrictions are extended, he did not think “it is possible to continue without taking more drastic actions.”

Many hawkers and F&B businesses are suffering

Older hawkers who are neither IT-literate nor social media-savvy have been at a great disadvantage since the rules that prevented dining in kicked in. 

There have been many reports on older hawkers who struggle with making use of social media or online delivery platforms to extend their reach. These hawkers are also seeing a huge decline in footfall due to the Heightened Alert measures. 

report by Channel News Asia highlighted how a BBQ seafood stall at Bedok’s 85 Fengshan Food Centre could not even achieve S$100 of sales in one day.

Most recently, it was reported that heritage brand Swee Kee Eating House was forced to close down after being in operation for 82 years.

Featured Image Credit: Seth Lui

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