Regulars get a little extra, say hawkers

Regulars get a little extra, say hawkers

When hawker Wong Chee Kong serves his regulars, he scoops more rice, gives two more slices of chicken and a dollop more of chilli paste onto their plate.

This is his way of acknowledging regular customers and making sure they return, says Mr Wong, 51, who has been running Yong Kee Chicken Rice for more than 10 years in Clementi.

These regular customers, however, need not have been patronising his stall for years. "As long as I recognise that they have been to my stall, maybe more than two or three times, I will definitely add a little extra," he says.

He is one of many hawkers who ply little perks on their favourite customers, such as extra ingredients or bigger portions.

Most hawkers interviewed say they reserve the special treatment for regulars as a reward for their loyalty, but not for celebrities or politicians.

Mr Roy Lim, 43, manager at 328 Katong Laksa, says: "I cannot say, 'Oh, you are famous', and give you more food. I am sure these people will feel uncomfortable, plus I don't know their taste and they might end up wasting the food."

Hawkers say they try to be discreet when giving special treatment to avoid the ire of other diners in the queue.

"Just give one or two more cockles or fish cakes, so other people will not notice," says 328 Katong Laksa's Mr Lim.

At Zu Chuan Ba Kut Teh in Chinatown, owner Lim Swee Yong, 59, gives regulars a free helping of whatever is cooking - anything from boiled peanuts to pig stomach slices - when they order more than two helpings of his pork rib soup.

At dessert stall Shun Chen in Clementi, owner Ng Ah Chai, 34, lets regulars eat on credit, and gives them a pop more of red bean and attap seed on his shaved ice treats. At nearby Ji Sing Hainanese Curry Rice, owner Tan Ah Tun, 68, ladles larger portions of vegetables - a cheaper option as compared to meat - for regulars. "I tend to be more 'heavy-handed' when I serve them," he says.

Plying too much food on regulars, however, might not be a good idea, he says. The extras may not be to the customer's liking, or the food may be too much for the customer's appetite, and food will be wasted, he adds.

To cope with this, but still make regulars feel special, other hawkers who spoke to SundayLife! say they would give extra ingredients only if regulars ask for them.

This includes more cucumber and chili sauce, says Ms Loi Mui Yin, 40, who runs Tian Tian Chicken Rice in Maxwell Food Centre. At porridge stall Ming Kee in Clementi, this means more slices of century egg, sliced fish and cuttlefish, says owner Penny Er, 61.

The rule of thumb is to add cheaper items, which keeps regulars happy but does not cost too much, says Mr Aziz Jaffar, 59, who runs Aziz Jaffar Muslim Food in Chinatown.

He gives regulars, such as taxi driver John Ting, more rice, chilli and vegetables when he visits about three times a week.

Says Mr Ting, 62: "I go back because the food is cheap. I know the owner by now and he knows what I like in my nasi padang, which he heaps on my plate accordingly."

Zu Chuan Ba Kut Teh's Mr Lim offers up to 50 per cent off for famous faces - a "celebrity discount", he says. His store front is plastered with pictures of him with celebrities such as actors Xiang Yun, Kym Ng, Marcus Chin and Dennis Chew at his stall.

He says: "If they think my food is good, they have influence and can get their friends and fans to come, which is good for my business."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.