Singapore

New plan launched to help food business go digital

It gives SMEs advice and guides them on using AI to improve operations

If Old Street Bak Kut Teh's experience is any indication, going digital can pay off handsomely for a small and medium-sized food business.

The chain of 15 stores introduced digital food ordering and payment systems, starting in 2013. Customers can order through a mobile phone app or use the tablets at each table. Those who pay digitally get a 5 per cent discount.

Labour cost has gone down 30 per cent and revenue has increased, said Mr Jason Lim, the chain's managing director.

Customers have benefited too. His staff members are able to spend more time attending to customers' needs.

The Government is hoping that more food businesses will see the benefit of going digital.

The Food Services Industry Digital Plan was launched yesterday at the Restaurant Association of Singapore's annual awards gala at Suntec City.

Old Street's success story is featured in a YouTube video about the plan, together with Omoomo, a chain of casual restaurants serving Korean-Japanese food.

The plan is one way for the industry to increase productivity by 2 per cent a year, without more manpower, in the next five years.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who was the guest of honour, said that unlike other places in the world, it was not an option for Singapore to compete on price and size. Food businesses had to offer quality, service and innovation.

He asked the industry to innovate.

"Then we can grow from strength to strength, unconstrained by the size of Singapore's economy."

The food services industry has more than 160,000 workers and they make up 5 per cent of Singapore's workforce.

The 7,000 restaurants, cafes, food courts and other food businesses contribute more than $3 billion in value-add to Singapore's economy.

Most of the businesses - 73.8 per cent of them - are small and medium-sized.

To make going digital simple, the plan, developed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority and Enterprise Singapore, gives SMEs advice and a guide to grow their businesses, improve productivity using ready-to-use digital tools, explore e-procurement and data analytics and tap on artificial intelligence to improve operations.

The restaurant association announced winners of its annual awards at the gala, which was attended by more than 1,000 industry people.

Winning Best New F&B Establishment (Casual Dining) was Nude Chill, a restaurant at Marina One.

The award for Best New F&B Establishment (Casual Fine Dining) was Origin Grill & Bar at the Shangri-La hotel.

A new award this year for Best Vegetarian Restaurant went to LingZhi Vegetarian, which has outlets at Liat Towers and Velocity at Novena Square.

Technology