Mr Vincent Phang, President of the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore,
ACAPS Members and Industry Partners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to ACAPS’ annual gala dinner. Since we last met in October 2022, Singapore has reverted to DORSCON Green and moved to the new normal. I am glad to see the resumption of many activities and businesses, especially in the F&B sector.
2. During the difficult period of the pandemic, catering businesses were hard-hit. But you weathered the storm with resilience and determination. The Association also played a key role in anchoring the sector with its efforts to assist and boost catering businesses.
Catering sector showed admirable resilience
3. Today, I am glad to note that sales in the catering sector have recovered to almost 80% of pre-COVID levels. Many of you met the pandemic disruptions with grit and perseverance. You adapted to changing consumer preferences and seized the opportunity to diversify your business to reach new customers and open new revenue streams, as well as raise productivity.
4. Let me highlight some examples which showcase the sector’s admirable response.
a. For example, Foodtalks was quick to diversify its business. It set up a ready-to-eat (RTE) line to supply semi-processed and RTE solutions to other businesses. The company also made use of the support from Workforce Singapore’s Service Industry Transformation Programme (SITP) and Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) to automate its vegetable cutting and packing, and optimise its kitchen workflow. This enabled Foodtalks to redesign job roles and equip its staff to do higher value-added work such as market trend analysis. Productivity was also improved when the time to make each batch of chicken stew was reduced by over 40%, from 4 hours to 2.5 hours.
b. Another example is Bellygood Caterer which ventured into producing frozen RTE meals during the pandemic. The resourceful company targeted both B2C and B2B segments, such as hotels and F&B outlets. Today, RTE meals contribute to the resilience of its business as Bellygood has an alternative channel to reach out to its customers, and engage new customer segments.
5. During the pandemic, the F&B Industry, including caterers, tapped WSG’s Career Conversion Programme (CCP) to reskill over 1,200 employees and enhance their job roles. One such company was Liang Food Caterer, which redesigned the role of the station chef to manage their new e-commerce touchpoint, Liang Gourmet, and empowered station chefs to provide personalised hospitality services to customers. These unique experiences encouraged more customers to order from Liang Food Caterer again.
No let-up in our efforts to transform and grow the F&B sector
6. The Government is committed to supporting businesses to adapt, innovate and transform. Last year, we refreshed the Food Services Industry Transformation Map (ITM) to give greater focus to catalysing innovation, driving new revenue streams and developing our homegrown brands. Working closely with the sector, we updated the Food Services Industry Digital Plan (IDP) to guide businesses on their digitalisation journey. We look forward to more companies and caterers adopting advanced solutions in your business, such as improving kitchen management and food waste management.
7. As the F&B sector continues to transform and innovate, there is no letting up in our support for you. To help you uplift the pay of lower-wage employees, we have made available the Progressive Wage Credit Scheme (PWCS) to co-fund salaries and ease the impact of the Progressive Wage Model on your business costs.
8. In addition, the Government launched the Energy Efficiency Grant (EEG) in September last year to support local enterprises, including food service businesses, in the switch to energy-efficient equipment for lower energy costs and greater sustainability. Since then, we have received over 1,000 applications, with more than half from the food services industry. The EEG will be extended to 31 March next year and for those of you who have yet to leverage this, I hope you will use this grant to save and become greener.
Sustainability is the new frontier
9. As the world pursues a greener future, sustainability is fast growing in importance for businesses and the F&B sector. Consumers increasingly favour businesses which source and operate sustainably. Businesses which exploit the opportunities presented by this shift will be well-positioned to grow. As we move towards our net-zero ambition, I encourage you to explore and capture the many new opportunities in sustainability.
a. For example, Grain, which provides catering and on-demand meal services, has switched to using sustainably sourced palm oil. It has also teamed up with Impossible Meat and Omnimeat to include plant-based food in its offerings.
b. To reskill your employees for sustainability-related job roles, you can tap the Career Conversion Programme for Sustainability Professionals. The green future is yours to grow and cultivate.
Trade Associations and Chambers as key partners in the journey
10. You have our support and the backing of your association as you journey on the road of transformation and sustainability. We will continue partnering with trade associations like ACAPS closely. For instance, the recently-formed Sustainability Alliance kickstarted by SCCCI, the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), and SGTech will uplift the sustainability capabilities of SMEs and help them reduce their environmental footprint.
11. More plans are also underway for the Digital Transformation Programme, which aims to boost SMEs in their digital transformation and provide them access to the training needed.
12. Food will always be a key part of our Singapore culture. As we celebrate your craft of catering tonight, I trust that you will continue to innovate and strengthen your food offerings and contribute to the lively and vibrant appreciation of culinary delights at social, business and important gatherings all across Singapore.
13. Thank you.