Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Versus Home Cooks: If You Can’t Beat Them, Take Them Under Your Wing Instead

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Some small/independent owners of brick-and-mortar food and beverage (F&B) establishments are crying foul over the lack of enforcement, licensing, and presumably less-financially-straining rise to success gained by home cooks. One distinctly upset business owner recently aired her grievances in the local papers, and a number of responses soon followed.

Of Finger-Pointing and Demands For Enforcement

During one of our many food-centred discussions during dinner (such gluttons we are), I recall mentioning to my mother: All it takes is for one letter or a status update on social media calling for tighter sanctions and/or enforcing stricter regulations on home-operated businesses, and an unnecessary spotlight will be cast on seemingly innocent individuals who simply wish to pursue their passion and/or earn a little extra side income by means of selling their food-based products.

Lo and behold; that very letter was penned not too long ago, and a number of responses soon followed (here and here). Not long after, a dedicated newspaper article aired business owners’ grievances and gripes about the aforementioned issue. Seeing how small and connected Singapore is, it will only be a matter of time before more back-and-forth debates arise.

While I do agree that a certain amount of enforcement and regulations should exist, almost none should be meted out with potential levels of tyranny which may affect – among various other collaterals – the livelihood of an individual and/or the existence of a business. With the exception of a few errant individuals/households (black sheep do exist in every possibly-imagined segment of activity), I believe that most home cooks are not breaching any rules as stated in the HDB’s current Home Based Small Scale Business Scheme; albeit (the aforementioned guidelines) being somewhat vague and/or ambiguous.

As someone who has worked in and around a number of food and beverage businesses, it goes without saying that hurdles are aplenty when it comes to setting up a business; with the most common ones in Singapore being that of manpower, not to mention the ever-present exorbitant overhead and operational costs. However; the disease that is finger-pointing, and calling for stronger enforcement and/or penalties only successfully portrays one’s bitter and entitled mentality, in addition to an autocratic-like demeanour. Additionally, even if your “rivals” were to be wiped off the grid, it would not guarantee your business a surge in patrons and/or profits – be it in the short or long term.

Learning To Work Together, Not Against Each Other

Instead of dedicating your time and already-strapped resources to put down others whom you conveniently label as your “rivals”, why not find out ways in which you can co-exist by engaging their services and tapping on their adequate experience and already-present skill sets? Why not offer them a part-time or temporary position at your premises (think the likes of festive season and special menus) instead of attempting to wipe them off altogether? Providing home cooks with a proper platform to showcase their products; and, for the brick-and-mortar business, the possibility of gaining a new group of patrons – that spells nothing less than a win-win in my book.

With the independently-owned branch of the local food and beverage industry (and the country as a whole) being already that small, petulant bickering and the aforementioned finger-pointing epidemic will do very little to solve and/or alleviate any existing issues or problems. Setting up – and subsequently running – a business isn’t a walk in the park; but instead of worrying about things beyond your control, why not look at and think about the things you can change and potentially take advantage of?

There’s some food for thought for you – pun absolutely intended.


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