Why do some eateries and hawkers struggle and some are
seemingly Covid proof? Many of them are losing up to 60% of business from pre-Covid days. For starters, a good recipe is not the full solution to good
business. It’s also the demographics like location (and it’s more than about
NSEW, Central or touristy zones), type of food, price points, presentation and
the people you are targeting in the area. A good dollop of luck helps too. You
need to know what you are selling, to whom, where, how much and why. And being
an old name with a good reputation helps of course. Online fame can only get
you so far. Then again, we can all be wrong about what works or not post Covid.
I observed three stalls offering well cooked comfort icons that have their own
set of good and bad problems.
Wildfire Burgers, 80 Bencoolen Street, NAFA
Campus 1, Wing A, #01-15, 1130am-9pm daily.. http://wildfireburgers.com (online orders)
Joanne Toh and Shaun Leong are serial F&B
entrepreneurs. They worked in the business, opened Korean BBQ restaurants and
now revived an old local burger brand, Wildfire Chicken and Burgers which
closed last year. It’s barely a month old and I was bowled over by their Angus
Beef Shabu Burger ($13) with burmashimeji mushrooms, yakiniku sauce, onions and goma sauce. Those streaky
slices in the burger lent so much texture and airiness to each bite. “ We
opened in the middle of Covid but we believe our concept of a very handy and
hand sized burger will be popular during and post covid. Just take out and
munch in”. Their Eggstarter ($9), with crispy bacon, creamy folded egg, cheese,
caramelised onions and mayonnaise is another winner- makes the fast food
version feels underwhelming.
Sin Sin Prawn Crackers/ Ngoh Hiang, #01-46,
Toa Payoh Lor 8 Hawker Centre, 12am-8pm (usually sold out around 4pm) closed on
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
Within 3 hours of operation, they are sold
out, each business day. And we are not talking pre-covid times, but just last
week. They hand make quite a few, but not all, of the items on display shining
under the lights. With just about 17 items beckoning, the patient crowds keep
pointing to favourites like prawn cracker, pink pork sausages, the yam buffed
meat rolls, fish cakes, century eggs with pickled ginger and especially their
own made fried spring rolls. The chili has a very piquant and refreshing lift
and it stands out. Every order need a 15
minute wait but no one is complaining. Perhaps it’s the location and folks
there just have this fondness for Teochew ngoh hiang. But definitely, the old household
name reputation, quality and consistency is a major factor.
Viet Quan Vietnamese Food, 01-50, Blk 90
Whampoa Drive Hawker Centre, 8am-9pm.
Closed on Mondays.
Ms Jade came to Singapore from Vietnam six
years ago. When asked why not the popular Joo Chiat area, she said “ I want to sell to
Singaporeans, not Vietnamese” but I pressed on, and she reflected, “maybe this
is not the best location but I have some regulars here by now”. Whampoa is an
old estate and many residents are not overly adventurous with food there. Her
Bun Nem Nuong with glutinous beehoon and lemongrass pork skewers is a runaway
winner at $8. She serve those five freshly done skewers spiked with lemongrass
and aromatics like laksa leaves, mint and basil. Spoon some of those sweet,
sour, salty and spicy fish sauce and it’s worth the 20 minute wait for those
fresh bbq skewers. Here Goi dua Leo and Thom ($5,cucumber and pineapple salad)
comes with pork, prawns, laksa leaves and the sweet, sharp and umami form the
pork and prawns make it very appealing. Hard to stop eating this salad.