Trying to find dishwashers in this employment climate is a struggle for most restaurants so Luk Yu took a different tack - it eliminated the job altogether.
No more dirty plates piling up in the kitchen, waiting to be scrubbed clean. Instead, the thankless task has been outsourced.
Operations manager Donny Tse told The Straits Times: "The biggest headache for us is to hire people to do menial jobs. Singaporeans don't want to work in such jobs as it's physically hard and calls for them to work on weekends, when we are busiest."
So in March the restaurant, with some support from Spring Singapore, opted to delegate the work to a centralised dishwashing service provider.
Except for certain types of pots and pans, all the plates and utensils go into tubs which get collected by the provider twice daily. This has been going on for about six months and Mr Tse is pleased with the outcome.
A major benefit is that the restaurant no longer has to spend resources looking for manpower that is getting harder to hire. It has also freed up kitchen space and raised hygiene standards.
But there are some drawbacks, notably the need to buy triple the number of plates and utensils as the dishwashing gets done only once a day. Another problem arises when the truck delivering the dishes is delayed and turns up at the restaurant's busiest periods.
Sometimes, the vendor returns crockery with broken edges.
"We can't use such utensils as customers have high standards," he said. "But overall I think the move was a good one as it has improved our efficiency."
Mr Jimi Tan, who owns Luk Yu and other eateries such as dimsum chain Bao Today, said that for now, he is experimenting with outsourcing of dishwashing at Luk Yu.
Whether he expands the service to his other food businesses will depend on costs, he added.
He noted that it costs more to outsource dishwashing than to hire a dishwasher. The firm pays the dishwashing vendor about $7,000 a month, with some of that amount subsidised by Spring. Hiring three workers at $1,700 a month each - if they can be found - would still be a cheaper option, he said.
"I think we will have to relook at the end of the period of support whether we will continue with such an arrangement," said Mr Tan, who also owns the Kenko Wellness chain of spas.
"Maybe by then, when demand from the whole industry for such services jumps, the outsourcing will become more financially viable."
For more information on Spring's Capability Development Grant, visit www.spring.gov.sg/ CDG or contact EnterpriseOne on 6898-1800 or send an e-mail to email@example.com
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