Niche cafes make tweaks to stay alive in tough times
With a little weak to their business, some niche cafes that rely on dine-in customers are starting to see an uptick after Singapore moved into phase two of reopening.
One example is Willow Bike. Art. Cafe, a bicycle shop-cum-cafe, which had to shut during the circuit breaker.
Its founder Jason Liew, 51, told The New Paper: "When social distancing measures were implemented in March, the cafe started seeing fewer regular customers from the neighbourhood and we got worried."
During the shutdown, Mr Liew and his bicycle manager brainstormed how to change the business strategy.
"Before the circuit breaker, I noticed a trend in cycling and the bicycle shop was doing better than the cafe," he said.
The cafe reopened with a smaller menu while the bicycle shop was expanded to attract more cyclists.
The team would also recommend the cafe as a stopover for customers who came for repair and maintenance services. The cafe has since seen more new customers.
The Fresh Fruits Lab (FFL) group had to temporarily close two of its three concept restaurants before and during the circuit breaker period.
Mr Kelvin Tan, 36, strategist for the group, told TNP: "During the circuit breaker, sales could be as bad as $100 a day.
"After a week, we decided to leave (only) the Fresh Fruits Lab outlet open."
Its '70s contemporary-themed Herit8ge and Harry Potter-themed Platform 1094 restaurants took a break.
The group regained traction after launching Basque burnt cheesecakes on its cake website, Elements. All three outlets are now open.
A co-founder of Groundstory Cafe, Ms Maria Hartati, 56, said the arts and craft shop-cum-cafe managed to sell only one to two drinks a day during the circuit breaker. She said: "(The co-founders) decided to keep the cafe open during the circuit breaker. If we closed, the staff would have no income."
The cafe took on food deliveries in an attempt to stay afloat.
She said: "We focused more on pastries and meals. We also made changes to the menu with all-day brunch dishes."
Ms Hartati said the support of loved ones and regular customers helped them through this period.
With dine-in allowed from June 19, the cafe has seen a steady stream of customers.