TL;DR – They serve over 85 million meals annually.
You might have heard quite a bit about Foodfare in the news recently, mostly about the legal action the local foodcourt chain had taken against socio-political website The Independent Singapore (TISG) for publishing fake news. They have since taken down the articles.
If you were one of those – like yours truly – who have been wondering more about Foodfare and its background, then this article is for you.
First up, Foodfare was established in 1995 by the National Trades Union Congress or NTUC with the social purpose of providing affordable, tasty and healthier meals to the community.
According to a survey conducted by The Straits Times,
Affordability is key.
According to Foodfare’s chief executive officer Perry Ong, this is the result of the brand’s ‘reverse engineering’ model which involves negotiations with tenants on food prices and rental.
For example, given the area’s lack of price competition, the tenants at NTUC Foodfare foodcourt at Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) had wanted to price their dishes at higher prices, Mr Ong said no.
They had told the prospective tenants that if they do not subscribe to the DNA of Foodfare, they will not be able to take them in as tenants of the foodcourt. The whole intent of Foodfare opening up at MBFC was to ensure that the working people there can have access to affordable cooked food.
Today, the working crowd including the low-wage workers such as cleaners and security officers in the CBD are able to enjoy ban mian at $4.30, mixed rice dishes from $3.20, and udon from $3.80 at the foodcourt. In fact, if they’re NTUC members, they can enjoy further discounts as every Foodfare stall offers an NTUC Value Meal.
Prices are able to be kept this affordable without compromising on its tenants’ ability to earn profit is due to its unique “reverse engineering” model of setting food prices and rentals, said Mr Ong. Before tenants lease a stall, NTUC Foodfare will first discuss how to price food items, and both parties will decide on a price range that is affordable for consumers. It ensures that most of Foodfare’s foodcourt stalls sell a basic food dish at between $3.50 and $4.50, though they are also allowed to sell better-quality meals at higher prices.
Additionally, NTUC Foodfare also conducts price surveys in the area to set prices at its foodcourts. Based on the food prices agreed on and other estimated costs, the tenants and NTUC Foodfare will work backwards to decide how much rent is sustainable, and both sides will negotiate again before settling on a fee. Thus, stalls may pay different monthly rents.
There have been “many times” when the rent proposed by NTUC Foodfare was lowered after negotiations with stallholders, said Mr Ong.
The group had been able to offer lower food prices at MBFC partly because it negotiated an affordable rent and a longer lease with the landlord.
It is also interesting to note that for the past five to six years, NTUC Foodfare has also not raised rents for many of its foodcourt tenants, even though landlords may have raised rents for NTUC Foodfare.
You might have also read the news about NTUC Enterprise’s acquisition of foodcourt operator Kopitiam which will mean that NTUC Enterprise will eventually have 70 foodcourts. Besides foodcourts, Foodfare also operates coffee shops, hawker centres, Rice Garden food stalls and kaya toast coffee shops Wang Café & Heavenly Wang.
While some questioned if the acquisition of Kopitam means that NTUC Enterprise had strayed from its mission of moderating the cost of living for Singaporeans, Mr Ong explained that the chain plans to extend affordable meal initiatives, including its Rice Garden mixed rice set for lower-income consumers, and lower the prices of coffee and tea.
The surpluses can be then channeled back into its operations and social programmes.
Besides F&B retail, Foodfare also has an Institutional Catering Division that prepares more than 44,000 meals daily. They provide meals to various commercial and governmental organisations such as the Ministry of Defence and are a major food caterer for the childcare and nursing home sectors.
There is also the Food Manufacturing arm. At their 18,000-sqft central kitchen, they produce a wide range of halal-certified products, from ready meals to customised food products for major F&B brands. They also produce extensive bakery and hot kitchen products, including pizzas, sandwiches, cakes and breads, as well as sauces and pastes.
Collectively, the three business divisions cover different market segments and serve over 85 million meals annually.
(Cover image via)