Starting with its first site at Block 320C Anchorvale Drive, the pilot project by SPRING Singapore and HDB offers residents alternative dining options round the clock - via vending machines.
SINGAPORE: When hunger pangs strike, residents near Block 320C Anchorvale Drive have a new dining option to turn to. Launched on Sunday (August 7), VendCafe is a cluster of vending machines that serves hot meals, sandwiches, and even freshly-squeezed orange juice all day. The meals are priced between S$3.50 and $$5, and the menu rotates between a roster of 30 meals.
Besides offering convenience to residents, the pilot project also aims to encourage the manpower-lean F&B sector to leverage technology. According to the cafe's operator JR Vending, there is no need for staff to be onsite, as food is prepared in a central kitchen before being packaged and chilled.
Speaking at the launch of VendCafe, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the concept can help the F&B sector deal with one of its biggest challenges - manpower.
“The F&B sector takes up almost five per cent of our total workforce. It's still growing as a sector but you can't keep growing manpower, and in particular we can't keep growing foreign manpower. So we have to find ways of using technology but without compromising consumer's desire for taste, for health, for nutrition and for convenience.”
Sengkang West MP and Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said that the area chosen is the older part of the estate, and had fewer F&B amenities. “The site of the VendCafe is very important, and it should not be too near to any eating houses because there’ll be direct competition.”
Mr Tharman also emphasised that efforts like this should not threaten Singapore’s hawker heritage. “I think we should never do away with our hawker centres, because there you have individual hawkers, proprietors with their own special touch and their own special recipes.”
SPRING is working with HDB and JTC to roll out more of such cafes in industrial and housing estates over the next year.
Recognising that consumer mindsets will take time to change, Mr Tharman added, "Here, we're starting off on a smaller basis, but people are already used to this in hopsitals, in tertiary campuses. And you have to just make it more present in our neighbourhood, so people know it's there and it's just part of the daily routine."
Companies that are keen to incorporate vending machines in their businesses can apply for the Government's Capability Development Grant which covers up to 70 per cent of costs.
To encourage more in the F&B sector to leverage technology, SPRING is working with HDB to review tender requirements in the bidding of new coffee shops, to encourage operators to tap technologies like digital self-service and kitchen automation.