CHEFS and their helpers could soon be relieved of the tedious chore of chopping meat and vegetables, leaving them free to spend their time preparing specialty dishes.
The dicing and slicing will be assigned to outside manufacturers in a bid to raise productivity in the food and beverage sector.
Mr Andrew Tjioe, president of the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS), said outsourcing "non-core" food preparation - such as marinating meat and cutting vegetables - will not just help restaurants save on labour and rental costs but also allow kitchens to be made smaller.
"This will free up manpower to do other things that are more productive, and will also reduce reliance on manpower," he said, adding that some restaurants in Japan outsource up to 70 per cent of their food preparation.
Mr Tjioe, who is executive chairman of the Tung Lok group, said his restaurants outsource less than 5 per cent of their food preparation process but "this can be expanded to 10 per cent, or maybe even more".
The need for this sort of collaboration in the food services sector was highlighted by Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang at the annual Local Enterprise and Association Development (Lead) Forum, held yesterday at Raffles Town Club.
"We want to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to form partnerships with solution providers to test productivity solutions that have the potential for mass adoption," he said, adding that the RAS, Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association (SFMA) and Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) will spearhead the initiative.
SFMA's immediate past president, Mr Wong Mong Hong, said the outsourcing of restaurant food production will help food manufacturers move into higher value-added work.
The project is the first to be launched under the Collaborative Industry Projects scheme announced in February's Budget debate. The scheme funds groups of companies getting together to solve productivity problems.
At yesterday's event, five trade associations were awarded funding under the Lead programme, which is managed by International Enterprise Singapore and Spring Singapore.
The initiative, which supports projects to raise competitiveness and performance, has supported 29 trade associations and chambers for 43 projects.
The Singapore Association for Private Education (Sape), which was set up last year, is a recent recipient. It has received its first grant and plans to raise the profile of the industry and develop the scope for private institutions to share resources, said its president Lee Kwok Cheong.
Six trade associations will be partnering Spring to offer the programme to SMEs in their respective industries, Mr Lim said yesterday.
They are the RAS, SMF, Textile and Fashion Federation, Print and Media Association Singapore, Association for Small and Medium Enterprises, and Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.