SINGAPORE – Each time a customer returns a tray of used crockery and cutlery at designated areas, the machines at the new Jurong West Hawker Centre will dispense 20 cents as an incentive.
This was one of the new features of the newly-opened hawker centre at Jurong West Street 61 on Sunday (Oct 8), including the use of three roaming tray-return robots and payment systems that accept both cash and cashless options.
The new centre houses 34 cooked food stalls, 14 market slab stalls and has a seating capacity of about 500.
It is managed by social enterprise Hawker Management – a subsidiary of food centre operator Koufu, on a not-for-profit basis. Each cooked food stall, for instance, has to provide two meals that are priced at S$2.80.
Senior Minister of State, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources & Ministry of Health, Dr Amy Khor, Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC, Mr Patrick Tay, and Member of Parliament for Pioneer Constituency, Mr Cedric Foo, jointly officiated the opening of the new hawker centre.
Mr Tay said: “This hawker centre and market is a much-awaited addition to the community. I am pleased to see that residents are enjoying the variety of stalls and the modern conveniences offered. The social initiatives that will be rolled out also makes this hawker centre a natural gathering place for residents to bond and enjoy their meals together.”
Hawker Management’s Chief Operating Officer David Yang said these robots and payment systems have already been used at some Koufu food courts.
“We have managed food courts for a very long time. So when we were awarded the hawker centre, we looked at the efficiencies that we have done for food courts, we adapted it and brought it over”, he added. The robots for instance, helped achieve a 50-60 per cent tray-return rate, as compared to the 20-25 per cent rate in other places.
While the robots in Jurong West are there to help diners who may not be able to carry their trays to the return area, a Hawker Management spokesperson said the 20-cent incentive, which operates using radio frequency identification, was to encourage diners to return the trays on their own. No deposit by diners is required. This is the first hawker centre in Singapore to have such an incentive-based tray return system, said Hawker Management
In other hawker centres situated in One North and Yishun managed by the Timbre Group, customers are required to pay a dollar deposit when they get a tray from hawkers to carry food items to their tables. When they return the tray at the designated return point, an automated system will dispense the dollar deposit to them.
Customers at the new Jurong West hawker centre were also seen using self-payment kiosks on Sunday. The kiosks allow them to either drop cash into machines or use cashless options such as NETs and credit cards.
Hawkers new to the trade occupied six cooked food stalls at the centre as part of the Happy Hawkerpreneur Programme, set up by Hawker Management to groom aspiring hawkers.
One of them was Mr Jackson Tan, 24, who runs a stall selling vegetarian food in different culinary styles.
Previously an operations manager, he noticed there are relatively limited and traditional vegetarian choices here and decided to sell vegetarian dishes to promote these healthier options to the younger generation.
His stall offers about 10 to 12 dishes, including kimchi ramen, mock fish burger and vegetarian pizza that cost between S$2.80 and S$5.90.
Through the programme, Mr Tan said Hawker Manager waived the stall’s first month rental and covered the costs of the signboard, among other things.
Another new hawker was Ms Lim Peck Ngoh, 42, made the career switch after spending more than 20 years working as a planner and buyer in the engineering industry.
She now runs a stall selling nasi lemak, which is based on her 72-year-old mother’s recipe. Her mother used to operate a business in the Outram area.
“I had a plan to start up this F&B business a few years ago and I found that this was a great opportunity for me to (take) my first step – I intend to have a food chain locally and expand overseas.”
Engineer Chew Han Yi, 33, said the new features at the centre were innovative but questioned if the elderly could have difficulties following the English instructions for the self-payment kiosks.
He added that while the 20 cents incentive was one of the better ideas to get Singaporeans to return their used trays, some could try to abuse the system in order to obtain the extra coins.