No wait to catch waiter at this eatery

SINGAPORE - A new restaurant has found a clever way to eliminate the tediousness of getting a waiter's attention - place your order via a mobile phone.

The three-week-old Food Glossary eatery in Jurong lets customers order and pay for their food through an application they can download, or they can go to self-service digital kiosks set up in the dining room.

Those who find the digital option unpalatable can still order the old-fashioned way by calling a waiter.

The automation of ordering means the 400-seat eatery can be run with just 10 employees, half of what it would normally need.

Mr Andrew Khoo, a director at ABR Holdings which part-owns Food Glossary, said adopting technology was a key factor considered when it was on the drawing board. "We face a lot of manpower constraints so in order to grow the business, we looked for new concepts where it didn't require a lot of manpower," he added.

By halving the number of employees, as much as $400,000 a year can be saved, he said.

Feedback from customers has been largely positive so far. But some are still not used to ordering online, so the firm is offering a 10 per cent discount for anyone using the mobile app.

Food Glossary is one of several companies in the food industry singled out for praise yesterday by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong for trying to boost productivity.

Mr Gan told the Food Productivity Conference at Singapore Expo yesterday that firms could innovate, collaborate with others and focus on people - as well as employ technology as Food Glossary has done - to grow their efficiency.

Beverage maker Advanced Frontier was another example cited by Mr Gan. It devised a new product enhanced with collagen and vitamins that was attractively packaged for ease of consumption and export. The product raised the firm's revenue by 50 per cent.

Restaurants can also work together with food manufacturers to outsource the preparation of non-core food items to save time and cut costs, added Mr Gan, who urged firms to invest in their workforce. "Retaining and recruiting the right talent are crucial to staying competitive, especially in a tight labour market."

Mr Andrew Ing, chief operating officer of the Lo & Behold Group that owns several bars and restaurants, said the firm is thinking of launching online training so staff can learn on the go. "It's not just about cutting down on manpower, saving costs. It's about investing wisely, and making things more efficient so you retain the best staff and deliver great service to the guests," he noted.

Since 2011, some 1,300 firms in the food services and manufacturing sub-sectors have improved their operations through productivity upgrading projects where they can get government grants.

Around 4,000 staff from food companies have also undergone productivity training since 2011.

This article was first published on October 28, 2014.
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