With the recent opening of the Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre, it’s a no-brainer that those living nearby (or even a distance away) have chosen to dine there over the past few days.
The hawker centre, which opened last Thursday (17 December), houses 44 stalls and 800 seats.
It even has a cool self-ordering kiosk, which will probably make you feel like you’re in McDonald’s and not a hawker centre.
However, cool things aside, there’s one thing that patrons have noticed: the incredibly high prices that are added on for takeaways.
Instead of the usual 20 to 30 cents that hawker centres and coffee shops charge for takeaway boxes, stalls charge anywhere between 20 to 80 cents at this hawker centre.
The reason for that? Biodegradable boxes.
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When speaking to Shin Min Daily News, a patron named Mrs Jiang (Hanyu pinyin) recalled visiting the hawker centre recently for a meal but could not find seats.
Hence, she decided to get her meal to go.
However, she only realised that the takeaway box for her order was a whopping 50 cents, and she expressed shock over such a steep price.
She also did not realise beforehand that there was a notice at the front of the stall stating that takeaway boxes would cost 50 cents each and explained how she thought that takeaway boxes would only cost around 20 to 30 cents in hawker centres.
Mrs Jiang also said she would bring her own takeaway containers in the future.
When Shin Min reporters visited the hawker centre, they discovered that the only stall that does not charge for takeaway boxes is the one selling muffins and pastries. Most stalls charge 30 to 50 cents for their containers.
Apart from that, some stalls put up notices about the price of takeaway boxes while others only verbally tell their customers about the price.
Li Weihan (Hanyu pinyin), the stallholder of the ban mian stall, explained to Shin Min that the stallholders at Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre are required to use biodegradable takeaway containers.
This includes the takeaway boxes and the boxes used to contain condiments.
In total, the money spent on takeaway materials for every customer’s takeaway order costs around 50 cents on average.
He also revealed that the management provided stallholders with the contact details of several suppliers, allowing them to negotiate with the suppliers by themselves.
For his stall, Mr Li managed to find a supplier that sells the takeaway boxes for 40 cents each.
Due to the need to build a customer base, his stall has also decided to absorb part of the costs and charge customers 30 cents for each takeaway box.
However, Mr Li shared that his stall has also faced an issue of not having enough biodegradable takeaway boxes. On Saturday (17 December), they had to make a last-minute decision to use regular takeaway boxes after their biodegradable ones ran out.
The owner of the Japanese rice stall told Shin Min that every biodegradable takeaway box that her stall buys costs 60 cents, but the stall charges customers 50 cents for one.
She also encouraged the public to bring their takeaway boxes since it saves them money and is a more environmentally friendly option.
Apart from that, a stall selling Korean cuisine was seen charging 80 cents for every takeaway box. The stall assistant expressed that some customers immediately leave the stall after hearing the cost of each takeaway box, causing business to be affected.
Canopy Hawkers, the company responsible for managing Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre, also sat down with Shin Min to explain why the hawker centre uses such packaging for takeaway orders.
Their executive director, Chen Zhuoyi (Hanyu pinyin), mentioned that the management decided to use biodegradable packaging in the hawker centre to make the establishment more environmentally friendly.
He added that the additional profit made from using these biodegradable boxes in the stalls’ orders is not “significantly high” and that they charge around the same price as other establishments that use biodegradable takeaway boxes.
According to him, Canopy Hawker is trying to help stallholders lower the cost of these takeaway boxes by buying them in bulk from suppliers. He expressed that the firm also hopes to see these costs decrease, just like the stallholders.
He also said that Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre is the first to prioritise being environmentally friendly and hopes other hawker centres can follow suit by adopting similar practices.
After incorporating these practices, the management can reduce costs by buying the takeaway containers in bulk.
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As for the patrons, it seems like they have differing opinions regarding the cost of takeaway boxes.
One patron who paid 50 cents for each takeaway box said they spent $1.50 in total just on three takeaway boxes and that patrons may need time to adjust to the prices.
Three other patrons added that charging 30 cents for a takeaway box is already considered a slightly high price and that charging 50 cents is definitely expensive. As a result, they will try and reduce the number of times they take away their meals or prepare their own takeaway boxes.
One of them added that the high costs of takeaway boxes might dissuade many patrons from purchasing their food at the hawker centre.
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