Ministry of Food (MOF), which once – at its peak – owned 80 restaurants across Singapore including restaurant chains DaeSsikSin, Hanssik and Ju Hao, will be closing down after its failure to settle a $200,000 debt.
The sum was an interest-free loan from co-founder Chua Ngak Hwee back in 2019.
In March, he sued MOF after it failed to repay the debt and on April 9, the High Court accepted his application to wind up the company.
The Straits Times reported that in January, an application was filed with the High Court by Lee Je Young, a Korean businessman alongside three others in order to enforce an arbitration award of $4.8 million from MOF.
The man appointed as the liquidator for the closing company is Tam Chee Chong, director of Kairos Corporate Advisory who told the publication he knew of the $4.8 million claim.
He confirmed that all of the restaurants owned by MOF had stopped operations.
However, DaeSsikSin, a Korean BBQ buffet at Orchard Gateway, is still open but operating under a different business name: Master Kitchen Concepts (MKC).
According to records from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, MKC is owned by Dr Ting Choon Meng who was director of MOF between 2016 and 2018. Dr Ting is also co-founder of Health Stats with Chua.
MOF’s founder Lena Sim reportedly had trouble paying for supplier, rental and employee costs last year.
Her troubles also include a flopped business deal in 2017 where she only paid $700,000 to buy a Korean restaurant chain that had agreed to sell for $5.5 million, leading to the $4.8 million lawsuit.
Last February, the plaintiffs were awarded a Mareva Injunction against Sim, where her assets were frozen up to a value of $4.8 million. She said this prevented her from paying her landlords, suppliers and staff.
The Covid-19 pandemic further compounded MOF’s financial woes last year as the company suffered a 35 per cent drop in performance across its restaurants.