Singapore’s hawker industry has been making tons of headway in recent years – in the place of retiring hawkers are young, aspiring chefs breathing new life into the local F&B space. Fancy some comfort food? Calls for Calzone Pizza at The Bedok Marketplace’s The Naughty Chef. Hearty European cuisine? Bavaria Haus dishes out authentic German fare at its three hawker outlets.
But where do you even start? How will government policies and initiatives affect you? Which grants and schemes can help to maximise your profits? Here’s a crash course before you dive into the hawker trade.
How to Begin Your Hawker Journey
- Check your eligibility
- Find a suitable hawker stall
- Tender for a stall
- Cross your fingers!
- Get yourself certified
- Get a Hawker Stall License
1. Check your eligibility
In order to apply for a hawker stall, you have to be:
- A Singapore citizen or a Permanent Resident
- At least 21 years of age
2. Find a suitable hawker stall
The National Environment Agency (NEA) holds monthly tender exercises, where vacant stalls in government hawker centres are put up for tender and awarded to the highest bidders. These are generally held from the 13th to 26th of each month, and tender notices are available on the NEA website.
Some stalls are specifically designated for certain purposes only (e.g. Halal cooked food, Indian cuisine, etc), all of which are detailed in each tender notice.
3. Tender for a stall
Tender documents are available at the NEA One-Stop Information and Service Centre (OSISC) at HDB Hub for $10 per copy. Submit this back to the OSISC along with your tender deposit i.e. the monthly rental amount you’d like to bid for your selected stall.
When deciding on your bid, consider:
- How much you’re willing to set aside for your monthly rent. Remember to factor in other fixed costs when planning for a sustainable business – hawker centres also charge monthly Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) and Table Cleaning Fees, also indicated in the tender notice. The former typically averages $400-550 while the latter averages $150-$200.
- Previous winning bids (see below). On the same webpage cataloguing the tender notices, you’ll find the bids of past successful tenderers, which serves as a good gauge for your bid.
That said, winning bids range drastically depending on the location of the stall and articles of sale. For instance, compare the successful tendered bid for a Halal cooked food stall at Berseh Food Centre ($33) against a cooked food stall at Amoy Street Food Centre ($3,300).
Not forgetting, a stroke of luck. For instance, 2 drinks stalls in Chomp Chomp Food Centre were put up for tender in July 2018. One went for $4,018.70 while the other went for $10,028.00. (Ouch!) So, while past bids can serve as a rough gauge, there’s no foolproof way to win a tender. Most importantly, avoid over-bidding so you don’t end up with a messy financial burden.
4. Cross your fingers!
The final tender results will be released 3-4 weeks later.
If your bid is successful, your Tenancy Agreement will commence on the 1st of the following month following the release of the tender results. (Meaning to say, it all happens really quickly!)
If not, your tender deposit will be returned to you shortly.
Note: Only apply if you mean business! The 3-year tenancy period is a rather long commitment; plus, successful bidders who fail to sign the Tenancy Agreement will be debarred from participating in future Government Ministry or Statutory Board tenders, and will even be prohibited from becoming a hawker assistant.
5. Get yourself certified
Anyone handling cooked food is required to complete the Basic Food Hygiene Course (BFHC), which consists of 6 hours of course work and 1.5 hours of assessment.
Following which, you must then register all your food handlers with the NEA.
6. Get a Hawker Stall License
Once you’ve secured a hawker stall premise and registered your food handlers, you’re now eligible to obtain a Hawker Stall License.
Submit your original NRIC and a copy of it, a copy of your Tenancy Agreement, your BFHC certificate and a payment for the license fee ($13 per year for up to 3 years) at the NEA Service Centre.
Note: For government-owned hawker stalls only. You should be applying for a Food Stall License if you’re operating a food stall within a privately-owned food shop (e.g. food courts, canteens).
Grants and Schemes
Of course, being a hawker isn’t easy. For every hawker you hear of taking home 5-digit earnings per month, there are as many out there finding it tough to stand out.
On the fence? The newly-launched Incubation Stall Programme lets aspiring hawkers – even those without any background in the F&B industry – to rent a stall for six months at half the market rate, granting them the opportunity to experience being part of the hawker industry.
These selected stalls are at well-sought-after locations like Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, ABC Brickworks Food Centre and more.
To be eligible, applicants must have attended a Hawker Business Management course at ITE or be a graduate of a tertiary business management course, as well as present a business plan and undergo a food tasting assessment.
In a bid to improve the vibrancy and sustainability of the hawker trade in Singapore, grants and schemes have also been introduced as funding support for hawkers. The Hawkers’ Productivity Grant, for one, co-funds kitchen automation equipment such as food processors and automatic cookers to help hawkers achieve higher productivity levels. Stallholders can claim 80% of the equipment unit costs, capped at $5,000 over three years.
On the Job
Being a hawker isn’t easy – the industry’s notorious reputation for its long hours and tough conditions aren’t for naught. That said, it’s not all bane and no boon. In fact, many fresh hawkers consciously choose this route over working in more polished restaurants, preferring to be their own boss.
Inspired? Now, you’re all set to start setting up and running your hawker stall!