It's time to 'take a break'

It's time to 'take a break'

In its heyday, Nasi Padang River Valley would sell more than 500 plates a day.

But now, 300 plates a day is considered decent business.

The business, which has been operating since 1957, will close its doors on March 28, because of rising operational costs and lack of manpower, after being at 55, Zion Road for more than 10 years.

Mr Zulfa Hamid and Mr Hariz Pua, co-owners of the business, decided to end the lease.

"We decided in January that it was time for us to take a break," said Mr Zulfa.

The ground floor unit of the shophouse, opposite Great World City, had seen an increase in rent by 15 per cent every two years since a few years ago.

But last year, the landlord changed the terms of lease to a yearly renewal, with another increase in rent should they decide to continue next year.

They now pay close to $11,000 a month to lease the unit, compared to $8,300 per month when they rented the shophouse unit 10 years ago.

Mr Zulfa, 49, said the rising cost in ingredients, the short-term lease and raised rent make it hard to continue.

"The shophouse is so old now that we intended to renovate the whole place to give it a fresh look. But we can't do so with the one-year lease."

With customers gradually in decline over the past two years, co-owner Mr Pua, 57, said their business had dropped by about 30 per cent.

Food wastage

"Customers also eat less these days. So we have to buy less ingredients to avoid making losses over food wastage."

But it is having to put up with customers' complaints about the price of their food that breaks Mr Pua's heart.

"Many people tell us that paying $7 to $8 for a plate of nasi padang is too expensive in comparison to other stalls. But they don't consider the fact that we use fresh ingredients every day, which costs more, while other hawkers use frozen food," said Mr Pua.

Mr Zulfa added that ingredients constitute about 45 per cent of their earnings, which leads to only a "very slim profit margin".

They had to fire some staff and reduce wages to cut costs.

Founder of Makansutra KF Seetoh pointed to the incorrect mindset of many Singaporeans that has hurt businesses like Nasi Padang River Valley.

"Singaporeans are not prepared to pay higher prices for hawker food. But they do not realise that good nasi padang is actually expensive, and the ingredients cost the same as that in fine dining restaurants," said Mr Seetoh.

Although the Zion Road era will end, Mr Zulfa said he still plans to continue his business' legacy by opening a smaller stall, if the opportunity arises.

But Mr Pua is looking forward to an "overdue break" for now.

"I'm just so tired. At this age, standing for so long in the kitchen really takes a toll on you.

"I've already planned a couple of short vacation trips with my family, so we'll decide what to do when we come back."

Many people tell us that paying $7 to $8 for a plate of nasi padang is too expensive, in comparison to other stalls. But they don't consider the fact that we use fresh ingredients every day, which costs more, while other hawkers usually use frozen food.


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