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".

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Thank you. 🌈 Had a small rant in stories about the situation on ground on the singapore FnB scene in SG. 🥺🥺 I received hundreds of replies. 🌈🌈Solidarity, words of encouragement, solutions, some with just standing shoulder to shoulder with me. With all my heart. ❤️ Thank you. Truth is, being a small business owner is so damn tough. Through all the ups and downs, the losses, the tough work. The daily challenges. The never ending meetings. And more. It never ends. But through this covid episode, my heart goes out most to my teams... they believed in me. They count on me. And I cannot help but feel like I’ve let everyone down. 😵 I’m writing this plea as a small operator of 3 restaurants to landlords in singapore. And am representing hundreds and hundreds of small businesses in echoing the need for your support. We need your help now.. If not now... then never. Coz we WILL cease to exsist. Like @willcookwilleat said...” You are a garden, and when we bloom... your garden looks good... and what is a garden without flowers?” We are dying here. Ina business of single digit profits. Having your top line decline by 70-80% 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 organization and shareholders. It’s time to support the very people who fill your malls and properties. Waive rents for 2-3 months. Give us a fighting chance. As at right now, we are not going to make it. 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. Or you can dip into your deep reserves to help tenants this year... The retail Industry may not recover if too many players go bust during this period and it affects your long term profitability. You are protecting profit, we are just trying to survive and help our fellow singaporeans and livelihood and Jobs. Do the right thing. Follow the example of our countries leaders and help us all in our time of need. @leehsienloong @hengsweekeat

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"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".

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Ran outta space...continued... In the coming days, if the government decides to have a no dine in rule for restaurants. Or a shut down of any sorts. It’s truly game over. For the whole industry. Many have asked me to consider a take away and a online alternative. Ta pau. Truth is, we are in the CBD. Half now work from home. No workers means no sales. Also it’s difficult running a take away biz in a space that costs 25k. And staff that cost 40k. Stall holders rents are much lower to make any sense. But we will try. I owe it to my team to try. The only way now is if there’s such a measure, that you waive rentals. Cash flow is severely affected. Like all businesses now... like hotels...no sales means we can’t even make ends meet. Pay staff. Or suppliers. We are asking for you to look at us as partners. Giving us a 2-4K discount on a 25k rent really just delays the inevitable. On behalf of all small biz owners in all the malls, and cafes, and commercial buildings. And everyone affected in the service and retail space... Just. Give. Us. A. Chance. When times are good... we pay GTO. On top of rent... we’ve also paid rentals that have doubled or tripled over the years. It’s a give and take relationship. Can you be on the other side for once? I’m pleading. Coz past this next few weeks... we are all not going to make it. Defaults at 50% or more. 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. We are in this together. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻 #sgunited #singapore #covid #savefnbsg #struggling #sinking #help #savejobs #save #singaporeans #staff @hengsweekeat @leehsienloong @capitaland@businesstimessg @straits_times @fraserspropertyretail @citydevelopments

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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