This made my day: Chicken rice shop offers free meals to hospital staff despite suffering losses

Facebook/OKCHICKENRICE

It's easy to pay lip service, but the boss of a local chicken rice shop is putting his money where his mouth is.

To date, OK Chicken Rice has delivered 1,180 free meals to healthcare workers and volunteers, including those from National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and Singapore General Hospital (SGH). And they've got thousands more packets scheduled to be delivered to SGH in the coming weeks.

All this, despite continuing to suffer losses monthly, boss Daniel Tan, 40, told AsiaOne.

The Ang Mo Kio chicken rice joint kicked off the initiative, Campaign Cheer Up, on Feb 10, calling for donations from members of the public to defray the costs of free meals provided to those in the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak.

Their Facebook post read: "We wish to thank our medical team working at the front lines especially in these trying times by organising a 'cheer-up' campaign for them! Join us by sponsoring $3 for each package that we deliver to them!"

Each donation of $3 went towards defraying the cost of a packet of chicken rice (usually priced at $5.90).

OK Chicken Rice absorbed the rest of the costs, including materials, labour and delivery, Tan said.

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The initiative raised over $18,110 in donations in a week, subsidising the cost of some 6,000 packets of food.

He has been in contact with the management of several hospitals to organise the delivery of the food, Tan added.

Hospital staff can also enjoy the free food sponsored by the campaign when they dine-in at the shop, located at Blk 721 Ang Mo Kio Ave 8.

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The response to the campaign was so overwhelming that the shop announced on Feb 18 that it would have to substitute the $5.90 dish for a $4 version (sans otak, braised egg, tofu and extra rice) as the costs had "exceeded the boundaries" that they had set.

"We have changed the formula to a more sustainable one." Tan explained, "If the public supports, we will be happy to continue."

Those who wish to donate can make payment via the PayNow QR provided on OK Chicken Rice's Facebook post and include the comment "Frontline Heroes".

This is far from the first time that Tan has used his culinary chops for good.

Last year, OK Chicken Rice celebrated SG54 by offering chicken rice at 54 cents for seniors. The shop also made headlines when it gave away 1,000 plates of chicken rice for Labour Day in 2018.

But even amid Tan's valiant efforts to give back to the community, OK Chicken Rice is going through some tough times itself.

"Our food is good, our portions are generous, it's also fresh and healthy. However, location versus rental has always been a challenge. We have moved from place to place over these 18 months," Tan confessed.

The business is "still [operating] at a loss monthly" he said. But he still wants to do his part.

"I guess I am not really cut out for business in the purest sense. Having community spirit and speaking for those who don't have a voice always resonated with me and my wife Clara."

kimberlylim@asiaone.com