With factors like manpower crunch, rising cost of ingredients, and difficult customers, life in F&B is definitely no walk in the park.
To top it all off, vendors also have to deal with hefty rental costs too.
And for some of them at this year’s Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar — which runs from March 17 to April 21 — their rentals can go up to a painful $18,000 a month.
Speaking out about this in a Facebook post on Tuesday (March 21), Makansutra founder KF Seetoh said this is “easily the world’s most expensive pasar malam stall”.
He also pointed out that despite the high monthly rental, the stall offers an “unproportionately (disproportionately) cheap menu”.
“Even top pop-up markets in prime time New York or Los Angeles cannot hold a candle to this,” he remarked, adding that this rental justifies our “world’s most expensive city reputation”.
KF Seetoh currently runs Urban Hawker food hall in New York, which features a variety of Singaporean cuisines.
As a comparison, the Nasi Ambeng stall in Urban Hawker in New York commands a monthly rent of US$10,000 (S$13,000), reported Berita Harian.
From $10k to $18k rent
Rental at the Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar hasn’t always been this high.
In fact, a few years back, it was almost half the price.
In an interview with CNA on March 21, Stephen Suriyah, founder of The Original Vadai, shared that eight years ago, he paid between $8,000 to $10,000 for a stall space.
Today, a similar lot will cost him a whopping $18,000.
He would know better as his stall has been a regular fixture at the bazaar for the past 30 years.
In hopes of turning around a profit, Stephen has increased his prices by 10 cents across all five of his stalls at the bazaar.
According to The Original Vadai’s website, one chilli vadai costs $1.20, while a prawn vadai costs $1.30.
Empty stalls, even in high-demand spots
Apart from that, Stephen noted that this year, there are plenty of empty stalls — even along one of the main stretches in the bazaar.
“I’m also quite surprised. These are all the spots that actually get taken up really fast so you need to call the organisers to ‘chope’ your spot,” he said.
“But this year, that’s not the case, probably because of the high rental (costs). This year is one of the highest we’ve noticed.”
According to CNA, about a fifth of the stall units at the bazaar are still empty even though the bazaar started last Friday (March 17).
Out of the 900 stall spaces available for rent, around 200 units have not been taken up.
To fill the remaining units, the bazaar’s organisers are letting businesses who cannot afford to pay the rent in cash upfront to do so with a percentage of their sales after the event has ended.
Event organiser Mustaffa Shah explained to CNA: “For example, for every $10, we take $2 or $3, depending on the value of the shop space.”
He also revealed that the cost of setting up the bazaar came up to nearly $2.5 million this year.
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