Why eateries succeed and fail in Covid season

By KF Seetoh - Friday, Jun 12, 2020

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’s Beef Shabu Burger


Joanne and Shaun of Wildfire Burgers


1. 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 Cracker Ngoh Hiang at Toa Payoh


2. 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’s Cucumber and Pineapple Salad


Viet Quan’s signature noodles with lemongrass pork skewers


3. 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.