F&B operators get a taste of the industry in US

F&B operators get a taste of the industry in US
Mr Zulkarnine Hafiz (standing, eighth from right), restaurant owner of Mamanda, and Fig & Olive, with members of the trade mission delegation to Chicago and Boston recently.

Local operators of food and beverage (F&B) outlets keen to see how the Americans go about things had their appetites satisfied last month.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) led about 30 representatives to the United States to see how the industry there goes about things.

The 30 participants attended seminars and a trade fair, and got acquainted with new technology adopted by restaurants in Chicago and Boston.

The RAS organises three to four such overseas study missions for F&B companies thanks to funding from the Local Enterprise and Association Development (Lead) programme, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The programme is a joint effort between Spring Singapore and the International Enterprise (IE) Singapore trade agency. Lead supports trade association and chambers (TACs) like the RAS, which in turn help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to expand overseas, build capability and raise productivity.

RAS executive director Lim Rui Shan said the funding to allow missions like the one to the US are invaluable: "Certain things were very out of reach (before), such as workshops or having good speakers, but Lead makes such expertise more accessible to our companies."

Lead has injected around $100 million to help 31 TACs launch industry development and internationalisation projects. These ventures have in turn benefited about 38,000 SMEs, said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang, who was speaking at the programme's 10th anniversary dinner at Resorts World Sentosa last night.

The RAS and five other TACs - the Association of Singapore Marine Industries, the Print and Media Association Singapore, the Singapore Business Federation, the Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association and the Singapore Furniture Industries Council - received certificates for new Lead initiatives totalling nearly $7 million, aimed at driving new industry development and internationalisation projects.

IE Singapore chief executive Teo Eng Cheong said TACs are crucial in helping smaller firms raise their profile through overseas trade shows and missions, so they can expand more efficiently outside Singapore.

Mr Thomas Chua, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI), added that TACs are well positioned to help firms that are still "feeling their way around" as the economy restructures.

However, TACs have their own share of challenges. Mr Chua said: "Some trade associations have a dwindling membership. Some worry because they have no permanent premises to hold meetings and organise activities."

The new trade association hub at the Jurong Town Hall helps to alleviate this by allowing TACs to share resources and lower business costs.

Since the SCCCI signed on as the hub's anchor tenant in March, it has worked with JTC Corporation to bring in another 11 trade associations, Mr Chua said.

The hub is slated to be fully operational by early 2017.

This article was first published on June 3, 2015.
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