‘Too many established names have fallen’: F&B industry group calls for more support from authorities
SINGAPORE: Representatives from the food and beverage (F&B) industry on Friday (Jul 23) called on the Government to provide more help, saying businesses have been hard hit by closures due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In a letter of appeal addressed to Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, members of the local F&B scene noted that the Government had announced S$1.1 billion support package earlier in the day.
The package includes more wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) for affected sectors, including F&B.
READ: S$1.1 billion support package for workers, businesses hit by Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) restrictions
“We received the news announcement on the S$1.1 billion relief package, and it is heartening to know that the Government has heard the pain points of the various impacted sectors into consideration,” said the group.
"However, the F&B industry remains heavily affected by the rounds of closures, ever-evolving restrictions and rules, and the lack of proactive support to protect our businesses, your local enterprises."
The letter was signed by many F&B representatives and employees, including those from Unlisted Collection, Paradise Group, il Lido Group, Paris Baguette Singapore, Violet Oon, Burnt Ends Restaurant, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, Spa Esprit Group, Hvala and Culina.
The group, known as #savefnbsg, refers to itself as a ground-up initiative representing more than 500 restaurants and local companies.
It laid out several suggestions on how the industry could be better supported, including having rental rebates given directly to tenants.
The Ministry of Finance had earlier said that it is looking into sharing rental obligations between the Government, landlords and tenants.
“However, please consider a mandate of six weeks worth of total rental rebate to be given directly to the tenants of all government and privately-owned properties as the closure of dine-in businesses impacts everyone in the sector,” said the F&B group.
It added that the Government’s “encouragement” to landlords to pass down rental rebates have not been effective in the past, and that a “more decisive ruling” is required.
F&B INDUSTRY COMPRISES “PREDOMINANTLY FOREIGNERS”
The F&B collective also called for a 60 per cent JSS for all employees - regardless of nationality - extended until Sep 30 instead of Aug 18 as announced.
The group said that the F&B industry comprises “predominantly foreigners” who are working for Singapore enterprises.
“These hardworking, law-abiding and tax-paying individuals have contributed much to Singapore’s dining scene and economy. Yet, there is no support for them, treated as if they don’t exist in the local workforce.
"The burden of supporting them throughout these challenging times has fallen solely on the local companies to bear since the last circuit breaker and these past months of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)," they said, calling on the Government to consider a full waiver of the foreign worker levy and waiver of work permit-related fees.
BETTER COMMUNICATION, PLANNING NEEDED
The group also asked the multi-ministry task force to impose “less restrictive” reopening measures for the F&B industry from Aug 19. Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), which began on Jul 22, is scheduled to run until Aug 18.
READ: 'I can't stop now': Business owners hang on despite running up losses amid tighter COVID-19 restrictions
“The industry has always abided by and cooperated with the ever-evolving restrictions and rules. As businesses progress into reopening recovery mode for the third time, we need to operate at our maximum capability to recoup from the losses incurred due to all the restrictions to date,” they said.
Allowing groups of up to five vaccinated people to dine within a regulated social space and allowing pipe-in background music are among the suggestions.
The multi-ministry task force was also urged to engage the F&B sector on future decisions “for more effective measures to occur, with better planning and communication between the Government and the industry”.
“We suggest setting up a task force dedicated to the F&B sector under your lead, with F&B associations and coalitions like ourselves. Sudden closures without sufficient time to plan and organise resources have repeatedly impacted the industry, causing an unnecessary burden on the businesses.”
Distributors and food producers should similarly get subsidies as there has been a reduction in demand, said #savefnbsg.
"COVID-19 is endemic, and it is an ongoing battle that we must face together," said the group.
“We need the task force to develop a sustainable model for the F&B industry as we tide these times together, and the solution is not to shutter our dine-in businesses,” it added.
“The F&B industry is at the point of decimation, with many businesses at the brink of closure. In the past year, too many established names have fallen, and more will call it a day if we do not have your support.”