More hawker centres to be run by social enterprises

More hawker centres to be run by social enterprises
NTUC Foodfare will take over management of five existing centres – in Toa Payoh Lorong 5 , Old Airport Road, Chong Pang and two in Whampoa Drive on July 1. It will also manage two new ones in Kampung Admiralty and Pasir Ris Central when they are ready in the middle of next year.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

In a bid to keep prices low, NTUC Foodfare currently sets the ceiling for some basic dishes at its Bukit Panjang centre, and monitors price rises of these at the Bedok centre.

Social enterprises look set to play a bigger role in the management of hawker centres here, with nine more centres slated to be run on a not-for-profit basis next year.

There are currently four such centres, which aim to keep prices low, among other social objectives.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday that NTUC Foodfare, which runs two of the four, will have seven more next year, after its successful pilot managing the Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre since 2014.

NTUC Foodfare also operates a centre in Bukit Panjang, and will take over management of five existing centres - in Toa Payoh Lorong 5, Old Airport Road, Chong Pang and two in Whampoa Drive - on July 1.

It will also manage two new centres in Kampung Admiralty and Pasir Ris Central when they are completed in the middle of next year.

NEA has been exploring alternative management models for hawker centres by engaging "socially conscious" operators to improve operational efficiency while ensuring affordable food.

The move to add centres follows positive feedback from stallholders in Bedok on Foodfare's management approach, said NEA.

The additional centres will offer NTUC Foodfare economies of scale and greater flexibility to experiment with new ideas and operational processes, added NEA.

It also called for socially conscious operators to tender for the management of two new hawker centres in Yishun and Jurong West on a not-for-profit basis.

They are expected to open in August and September respectively.

In a bid to keep prices low, NTUC Foodfare currently sets the ceiling for some basic dishes at its Bukit Panjang centre, and monitors price rises of these at the Bedok centre.

In response to queries, NTUC Foodfare said it will not be setting price caps at the five existing centres it will take over, to minimise disruptions, but price increases will be subject to approval.

Apart from handling management issues including cleaning, each centre will have a dedicated team to provide on-the-ground support to hawkers, said a spokesman.

Mr Steven Koh, chairman of Chong Pang City Merchant and Hawker's Association, welcomed the new management.

"Currently, the Merchant Association is handling the cleaning and plate collection, and it is very messy. I think it is good to have a third party to handle this, it will be easier for us as they are experienced," said Mr Koh, 54.

In addition to the two now run by NTUC Foodfare, Ci Yuan Community Club's hawker centre is run by a social enterprise subsidiary of Fei Siong Food Management, while Our Tampines Hub's hawker centre is run by OTMH, a unit of foodcourt operator Kopitiam, also on a not-for-profit basis.

Dr William Wan, who sits on the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee convened by the Government to help rejuvenate Singapore's hawker scene, said social enterprises help to keep costs low for consumers while providing hawkers with a decent income as no investors have to be paid.

tiffanyt@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 21, 2016.
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