SINGAPORE - Want to know the best places to eat and drink at Boat Quay? Look out for service ambassadors who will soon been seen roving around the popular pub and restaurant district.
The plan was revealed by Mr Jason Pope, owner of Dallas Restaurant and Bar, who told The Straits Times (ST) that he hopes to hire and train the ambassadors by the end of the year. His restaurant is one of the restaurants located along the Boat Quay stretch.
"They are the go-to people who will be around to point visitors, whether locals or tourists, in the right direction... something like what you'd see in Darling Harbour in Sydney," said Mr Pope.
In addition, the ambassadors will also handle complaints from tourists and Singaporeans who are harassed by touts and overcharged by food and drink outlets.
The idea of having service ambassadors, whose work will also include the neighbouring Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, was birthed by a group of businesses formed to combat touting and overcharging, which have tarnished Boat Quay's image.
The group came together to pledge not to solicit for business, and state prices of items clearly on the menus.
They also started an initiative called, A Better Singapore River Campaign, which was launched in December last year to clear up business practices along the riverfront.
Today, business is seen to be improving in the area with a return of patrons who are also willing to spend more.
Mr Katsumi Mizutani, who owns Italian restaurant Enoteca L'Operetta, told ST: "We are full almost every day at lunch nowadays.
"Many customers say they find it a lot more pleasant and comfortable to walk to my restaurant. They feel they are not being harassed."
But the picture is not so rosy for some others. One F&B operator, Lanna Thai Restaurant, has seen business plunge by about 50 per cent in the last six months.
Lanna's manager Vincent Ching said they are struggling to fill at least 10 tables on a weekend.
When asked if he is still getting his staff to pull in customers, Mr Ching said: "If there is a huge crowd, I won't need to pull customers or tout... but there are no customers now, how to survive?"
So even though, there are signs of slight improvement in terms of human traffic, Mr Pope and the others are determined to do more to woo customers who have moved on to other places like Duxton Hill and Club Street.
"It's differentiate or die," Mr Pope said, who aims to attract higher calibre operators who will be able to offer high quality products and services.
Another idea that has been floated is to give Boat Quay a makeover by sprucing up the riverfront's facade, but Mr Pope did not give ST details.
According to the report, the Urban Redevelopment Authority also has plans to roll out more frequent and affordable water taxis by January 2013, not just for tourists but also commuters who prefer to get to work by boat.
Fares should be no more than $3 a trip for a regular service and up to $4 for an express service.