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Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference 2019

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference 2019

Distinguished Guests, 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Good morning. I am pleased to join you here this morning, and to welcome the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference to Singapore for the first time. 

2. Singapore has a vibrant F&B scene with over 12,000 establishments, including many that have been recognised internationally. As a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural society, our food culture is continually shaped by diverse cuisines and innovative ideas from all over the world. One of my favourite is Peranakan food, which is an innovative blend of Chinese and Malay cuisines and cultures. If you have not already tasted Peranakan food, please give it a try during your stay in Singapore. 
 
3. Our food establishments are constantly evolving and finding ways to improve. This conference is a good platform for our local F&B businesses to learn from and connect with the best in the world, and I hope that your time here in Singapore will also give you new insights and inspiration.

4. The GRLC Distinction Awards will be presented later to recognise achievements in the four categories of Growth, Partnership, Innovation and Service. These are the same capabilities that we are looking to strengthen in Singapore’s F&B ecosystem. 

SINGAPORE IS A GATEWAY TO THE REGION 

5. Against the backdrop of a slowing global economy and fragmentation of supply chains, Singapore believes that we must remain open and connected with the world. We will continue to work with like-minded countries to forge trade and investment partnerships, and maintain a conducive environment for businesses to invest and operate in Singapore. This includes putting in place pro-enterprise regulations, a fair and efficient legal system, and strong innovation fundamentals. We will also continue to encourage the flow of ideas and talent to enrich the business community and promote collaboration.

6. In particular, there are significant growth opportunities in Asia, and Singapore can be a springboard for global businesses to access these opportunities. Collectively, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to become the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030. Its ten member states have a combined population of over 600 million people. With increasing urbanisation and a growing middle class, this dynamic region, which Singapore is at the heart of, presents immense potential for F&B businesses. 

HELP COMPANIES EXPAND ABROAD AND SEIZE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE REGION

7. We welcome companies to set up in Singapore or work with us to expand into Southeast Asia. Our companies have the know-how to operate in the region, and can be a partner to help you grow your brands. 

8. For example, Manna 360 is the master franchisee in the region for brands and products like Krispy Kreme’s donuts and TP Tea’s bubble tea. It has branched out from Singapore to set up outlets around Southeast Asia. 

9. Singapore companies can leverage an extensive network of partners in the region to accelerate their internationalisation efforts. This is supported by industry associations such as the Restaurant Association of Singapore, which helped to establish an ASEAN Restaurant Alliance earlier this year, together with associations from five other ASEAN countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The Alliance aims to help local F&B players expand into ASEAN markets, and promote the sharing of best practices and the use of novel ingredients and cooking methods. For example, the Alliance organises business missions for their member companies to understand the different markets and explore new partnerships. 

10. We recognise that a key success factor in a company’s overseas expansion is having a strong team to support its internationalisation plans. This is why we launched the Global Ready Talent Programme last month. The programme offers overseas internships for Singapore students, and a management associate programme for young professionals. This will help to equip our workforce with the mindset, skills and experience to operate effectively in the region.

F&B PLAYERS MUST INNOVATE THEIR OFFERINGS, EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY, AND IMPROVE SERVICE STANDARDS  

11. Next, let me touch on Innovation. Consumers are demanding better quality meals, higher standards of customer service, and more enjoyable dining experiences. There is also a growing interest in healthy and sustainable food. Innovation is crucial for businesses to meet changing consumer expectations. In the highly competitive F&B industry, businesses can differentiate themselves through developing interesting products and creative dining concepts.

12. We are supporting our local companies to transform their business models and enhance their competitiveness. For example, companies will adopt technological solutions to streamline manual tasks, so that their staff can spend more time on customer engagement and service. They also tap on data analytics to gain insights into the preferences of their customers, attract new patrons and build customer loyalty. 

13. Let me share the example of Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh. This is a chain that serves Bak Kut Teh, a well-known local herbal pork rib soup. The company worked with the Food Innovation and Resource Centre to produce a ready-to-cook Bak Kut Teh premix packed in a filter bag, so that customers can easily recreate and enjoy the authentic, peppery soup in their own kitchens. On top of unlocking an additional revenue stream for Ya Hua, this premix has also allowed more tourists to bring a taste of Singapore back home.

SERVING THE COMMUNITY

14. Lastly, we encourage business leaders to serve the wider community beyond their immediate customers. This includes actions such as responsible sourcing and reducing food waste, which is both good for business and good for the environment. 

15. Incorporated in 2018, SinFooTech is a local company that has created a viable product from food waste. It developed a patented fermentation technology that bio-transforms tofu whey, a waste product of tofu manufacturing, into a first-of-its-kind alcoholic beverage named Sachi. The beverage is rich in natural antioxidants, gluten-free, and does not waste any of the tofu whey in production. The product is slated to be distributed to hotels, restaurants, and cafes in China, and the company also plans to enter markets such as Japan and the USA.

16. SinFooTech’s efforts have been supported by Enterprise Singapore’s Food Waste Valorisation programme, which is a part of the FoodInnovate initiative. The programme supports market-led innovations to repurpose waste into useful products that create real, tangible value. 

17. The business community can also play an important role in raising consumers’ social consciousness and fostering a more inclusive society. 

18. I am glad to know that the conference featured the Dignity Kitchen from Project Dignity yesterday. This is the world’s first food court run by people with disabilities and is located at Serangoon in the central part of Singapore. I visited the food court about two years ago and saw how they trained their workers to run the operations and provide good service to customers.  The company also provides training opportunities to help people with disabilities acquire relevant skills to work in the F&B industry. I am heartened by what Project Dignity has done and hope to see more companies following in its footsteps, and also for more government agencies and companies to support its efforts.  

CONCLUSION

19. I would like to thank the organisers for bringing industry players together to exchange best practices and explore collaboration opportunities. To our visitors from abroad, I hope you find time in your busy schedules to experience Singapore’s wonderful dining scene and try some of our local dishes. I wish everyone a pleasant day ahead and a fruitful time at the conference. 

20. Thank you.

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