More vending machine cafes, cashless payment at coffee shops under new food industry roadmap

More vending machine cafes, cashless payment at coffee shops under new food industry roadmap

The new food services industry roadmap aims to address the shortage of manpower among businesses due to changing career aspirations among younger workers and an ageing workforce.

Vending machine cafe

SINGAPORE: A new roadmap for the food services industry launched on Thursday (Sep 8) aims to address a critical challenge - the shortage of manpower among food and beverage (F&B) businesses due to changing career aspirations among younger workers and an ageing workforce.

The Food Services Industry Transformation Map is the first of 23 industry-specific roadmaps to be launched under the S$4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme announced at Budget 2016, SPRING Singapore said.

“The transformation we’re going to see within the industry is part of the transformation of our whole economy,” Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said at the launch of the roadmap, noting that while Singapore’s productivity growth has been good in external sectors, growth in the domestic sector – including the food industry – was slower.

Mr Tharman said there had to be a "major makeover" of the F&B scene: “It’s a very important sector – it fulfills a domestic need, it makes Singapore attractive to tourists, and it’s a growth sector both here as well as internationally – but we have to change.

“The food services industry now has to think ahead of new ways of doing business, so that many years from now we still have a vibrant, diverse set of restaurants, coffee shops, hawker stalls … But with much less manpower compared to today.”

The food services industry makes up about 0.8 per cent of Singapore's economy but employs a disproportionate 4.5 per cent of the workforce, or about 160,000 workers.

With concerns about the supply of manpower, the new roadmap will help the industry work towards the achievement of an annual productivity growth target of 2 per cent without any increase in manpower over the next five years, SPRING said.


A key strategy of the new roadmap is the introduction of innovative, manpower-lean business formats to meet the changing needs of consumers in a more resource-efficient manner, SPRING said.

It highlighted Singapore's first vending machine cafe, launched last month, as an example of a manpower-lean dining format. The cluster of vending machines serving hot meals and other food items requires up to 90 per cent less manpower than a typical food stall and can be built within weeks, SPRING said, adding that it is considering implementing the model at another 10 sites over the next year.

The agency also said it is working with the Restaurant Association of Singapore to encourage more companies to venture into the ready meals market, while also working with regulatory authorities.

To ensure the sustainability of traditional coffee shops, SPRING said it worked with the Housing and Development Board and major operators to review the tender requirements for new coffee shop spaces, in order to include "productivity considerations beyond just rental bids".

The revised tender system, which will begin in mid-September with two pilot sites in Tampines and Choa Chu Kang, is expected to bring about new coffee shop designs that include features such as digital ordering and cashless payments.


Other measures outlined in the new roadmap include grant support for businesses to adopt digital solutions to boost productivity by 2018, SPRING said.

According to SPRING Group Director Kee Ai Nah, only 15 per cent of businesses in the food services industry have adopted digital service solutions such as automated dishwashing. "We would like to encourage more companies to embark on such productivity initiatives by 2020," she said.

The Singapore Workforce Development Agency and SPRING are also developing a framework to re-skill F&B workers, to help employers map out clear career progression pathways and skills training needs, and to facilitate the career progression and mobility of employees within the sector.

Given the limited domestic market, International Enterprise Singapore is working with food companies to build their capabilities to scale up for overseas expansion and has schemes to support businesses in doing so, SPRING added in the press release.

More information about support available for F&B companies under the new roadmap is available on SPRING's website.

Source: CNA/mz