No takers for dishwasher job until this Singapore restaurant offers $3,500 monthly salary

PHOTO: The Straits Times file

Would you wash dishes for $3,500 a month?

It is a pretty high salary for a blue-collar job but despite this very attractive offer, some F&B operators in Singapore are still struggling to find willing candidates to take up this position.

Over at Ishinomaki Grill & Sake located in Orchard Road, co-owner Chen Weixin told Shin Min Daily News that due to a shortage of people willing to do this job, she had to roll up her sleeves and wash the dishes. 

No other staff member she approached wanted to take on the additional duty either, even for an extra $50 a day.

"Maybe many people view dishwashing as a lowly position and are unwilling to do it even when there's money to be made," Chen told Shin Min Daily News.

Chen, a shareholder of the restaurant, shared that only when they put up the offer of $3,500 a month — equivalent to the starting salaries for some fresh university graduates — did they manage to find a Malaysian worker.

And that is after a month-long search. No Singaporean wanted to take up their offer.

The 50-year-old said they used to rely on foreign workers for this position but the pandemic had resulted in many of them returning to their home countries.

There's also a labour crunch with the easing of Covid-19 rules since March 29 and the tightening of foreign labour policies here.

Few Singaporeans want to do this

Shin Min Daily News also reported that some F&B businesses have resorted to offering salaries of up to $4,000 a month for dishwashers and $3,000 in bonuses to attract staff.

One F&B operator told Shin Min Daily News that they are offering a base salary of $2,600 with a hiring bonus of $2,000.

"We also provide a performance bonus of up to $1,000 a month, but even then we're still facing a shortage of staff," said the owner.

Lambert Chen, co-owner of Iko Restaurant and Bar along Neil Road told AsiaOne that the job is both demanding and hard work, which is why "few Singaporeans wish to take on this role".

Tung Lok Restaurants' chief executive officer Andrew Tjoe said they hired a cleaning company 10 years ago to address this issue, paying them between $3,800 to $4,000 per worker, reported Shin Min Daily News

He reasoned that as the labour supply for cleaning staff is very fluid, "by paying a cleaning company, it saves us the worry of whether the dishwasher will be here today and gone tomorrow."

Tjoe also shared that with the lifting of Covid-19 dining restrictions, they still need to hire more dishwashers today. 

Lambert shared that for them, using cleaning companies is not an option due to the high cost. 

"The rotation of dishwashers is also frequent, hence standards might not be maintained," he explained, revealing that his restaurant currently employs one dishwasher, a foreign worker, for $2,700 a month.

Some cleaning companies here have hiked up their prices to close to 30 per cent. 

Chen said she was quoted $4,900 for a cleaner by a cleaning company here "which is equivalent to a manager's salary", she shared.

The company had also insisted she hire three workers due to the size of her restaurant.

"This would mean spending close to $15,000 a month on dishwashing alone," she calculated. 

This challenge in hiring dishwashers is not new in the F&B industry here where back in 2012, Sakae Sushi said they were facing difficulties hiring dishwashers even with their $3,000 offer

Last month, one Malaysian restaurant in Melbourne, Australia was offering $5,500 a month for a chef to flip roti canai (known locally as roti prata).

candicecai@asiaone.com