Coronavirus: Restaurateur Daniel Ong says it's 'game over' for F&B if landlords don't waive rents

PHOTO: Instagram/daniel_ong_singapore

Since the coronavirus outbreak, food and beverage (F&B) businesses have suffered with declining footfall.

For former DJ and restaurateur Daniel Ong, business has gotten so bad that he has put out a desperate plea for help on Instagram and confessed that he felt like he's let his team down.

In a post published yesterday (Mar 29), the 44-year-old entrepreneur asked landlords to waive rent for two to three months so small businesses can survive. In addition to tagging major commercial landlords, he also tagged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Representing himself as a "small operator of three restaurants", Daniel pointed out that small businesses need the support and help of landlords, otherwise they will "cease to exist".

"Having your top line decline by 70 to 80 per cent only means there’s no way we can sustain this. No matter how deep your pockets. Over the years, you’ve made hundreds of millions for your organisation and shareholders. It’s time to support the very people who fill your malls and properties," he said.

The founder of cupcake chain Twelve Cupcakes pleaded for "a fighting chance" and added: "If you do not do anything meaningful, defaults will happen, no one will open anything in this climate, and your properties will remain empty till the end of year or till when a cure is found. It’s a lose-lose situation."

Daniel then published a second post on the same day where he painted a bleak picture of the current state of his restaurant business and revealed that "cash flow is severely affected".

He explained that people have asked him to consider alternatives — like going online and offering takeaways — for his F&B business, but with his three restaurants all located in the Central Business District, it doesn't help that "half [the people] now work from home".

He continued: "No workers means no sales. Also it’s difficult running a takeaway business in a space that costs $25,000, and [with] staff that cost $40,000... But we will try. I owe it to my team to try."

Although there are discounts on the rent now, Daniel said that taking $2,000 to $4,000 off a $25,000 rental only "delays the inevitable" and the only measure that works right now is if landlords waive rentals for small businesses. He reiterated his plea, noting that tenants and landlords have a "give-and-take relationship" and asked for landlords to "be on the other side for once".

He concluded: "I’m pleading. Because past this next few weeks, we are all not going to make it... It’s dire now. And we can’t wait for two weeks for an email reply for you to check with your bosses. We are going down now. Now."

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bryanlim@asiaone.com