It would probably be really hard to find a Singaporean who has never seen or eaten at a Kopitiam.
And I’m not talking about any generic kopitiam. I’m talking about this kopitiam:
This pinkish neon sign is pretty hard to miss, and for many, it’s part of their daily lunch or dinner routine.
But how much do we really know about Kopitiam, one of the food places in Singapore strongly tied to our Singaporean heritage and identity?
Well, here are 11 facts about Kopitiam in Singapore that you may or may not have known about!
1. Founded exactly 30 years ago
Kopitiam was founded in 1988 and it secured a whopping, never-before S$2.1 million dollar bid in a prime food location.
Since its beginning, Kopitiam has only grown at an exponential rate, establishing itself as a household name in Singapore.
Well, now you know Kopitiam is older than some of you.
2. The first makan place to operate for 24 hours
You know how finding a 24-hour eatery in Singapore is so simple these days?
You don’t really have to scour the island trying to find one.
And you have Kopitiam to thank for that!
Did you know that Kopitiam was allegedly the pioneer in Singapore for 24-hour eateries?
All the 24-hour McDonalds and coffee shops exist today because Kopitiam paved the way for 24-hour eateries to be the norm in Singapore.
And if you are anything like me, we are all very grateful for this.
3. Lau Pa Sat Festival Market
Lau Pa Sat is an icon of Singapore, with roots dating back to the early 19th century, making it an important historical building and place.
And did you know that Kopitiam was in-charge of its revitalisation project in 1996?
This included adding new food stalls to the existing ones!
This was a huge achievement in the culinary industry in Singapore, one that is still very recognised today in the industry.
So, if you’ve been to different Kopitiam outlets, you would probably have realised that most of the tenants are the same.
By that, I mean you’ll find chicken rice, yong tau foo, nasi padang, handmade noodles at practically every single outlet you go to!
But have you ever wondered why?
Well, the answer is quite simple (and interesting).
Kopitiam follows a business model where they carefully pair up stalls with the demographic of the area and people who are frequently eating there!
And since in most places where Kopitiam is located, most of the people eating there are local Singaporeans with local tastes and preferences, the tenants in each Kopitiam outlet rarely differs.
5. Bagus used to be Kopitiam’s rival
Bagus was previously known as Banquet, the largest halal foodcourt operator in Singapore with over 46 outlets at its peak.
Unfortunately, back in 2014, the operator was given the order to fold because they owed creditors $15 million.
The chain could not compete with their competitors, Kopitiam and Food Republic, and was unable to cope with the rising cost of rental at the same time.
Experts said that rental increased by 3% every year from 2009 to 2012.
Some of its outlets were taken over by its rival, Kopitiam, which is why people like my boss didn’t even know they’ve had a change of owner.
6. Number of Kopitiam Outlets in S’pore Today
This is Kopitiam’s magic number as of today!
80 is the number of foodcourts, coffeeshops, dessert stalls and cafes that Kopitiam owns islandwide currently. That’s quite a lot; in fact, we have one near our office as well!
That means that you could go almost anywhere in the country and find a Kopitiam outlet to eat at.
Boasting the ‘True Singapore Taste’ at all of its foodcourt outlets, you will definitely find your comfort food with a dose of nostalgia every time you visit Kopitiam!
7. The Kopitiam Card
Love it or hate it, cashless dining is where Singapore is headed.
Kopitiam is the first of its kind to start its cashless dining initiative in Singapore with the Kopitiam card.
If you don’t know how to use the card, well, it’s pretty simple.
You get the card from the counter and purchase a certain amount of value (just like purchasing an Ez-link card), and you use this card with its stored value to purchase your food!
Once the card runs out of money, simply go to the top-up kiosks (again, just like an Ez-link card top-up), and put in more money!
8. Healthy Kopitiam
This is another thing that Kopitiam is the proud pioneer of, The Healthy Kopitiam!
Healthy Kopitiam is just what it sounds like, a food court with 100% healthy food.
This is the absolute first of its kind in Singapore and was a joint initiative with the NUH Department of Dietetics.
This was also greatly supported by the Health Promotion Board.
The idea behind this food court was to promote healthy eating amongst Singaporeans by making healthy food not just accessible, but also affordable.
Some of the Healthy Kopitiam outlets are located at NUH Kent Ridge Wing, Ng Teng Fong Hospital and Yishun Community Hospital!
Pretty innovative, isn’t it?
9. Guinness World Record Holder
Did you know that Singapore got on the Guinness World Records in 2007?
And this was accomplished by Kopitiam!
You see, all those years ago, in Lau Pa Sat, Kopitiam made the longest satay in the world!
It measured 140m and used up 150kg of chicken to create!
And to this day, we still hold that title.
10. Kopi Kia
The CEO of Kopitiam is the humble Lim Bee Huat who worked as a kopi kia (coffee boy) when he was 9 years old.
This continued all throughout his school years until he realised he could make a lucrative business out of it.
He made bold decisions, did hours and hours of on-the-ground research and completely devoted every penny and hour of his life into Kopitiam even till today.
That’s how dedicated he is.
And he is the least-qualified member of his entire empire, just so you know.
If that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is.
11. It’s a Kopitiam with lots of promotions
It’s not common to see coffeeshops in Singapore to have, erm, promotions: I mean, we go for the food and go off after that. All we remember is the stall selling the food – and any promotions by the stall itself.
But Kopitiam has its regular promotions.
For example, the latest, according to their website, is a re-opening promotion in Benoi Kopitiam.
There are more, so check out their website for the latest promotions!
Kopitiam will always be part of our identity as Singaporeans, as it is one of those experiences we have all shared.
So hopefully you’ve learnt something of this incredible, iconic Singaporean food place!
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