Restaurant Couldn’t Find a Dishwasher Until They Offered $3,500/Month (& It’s Still not a S’porean)

The Food & Beverage Industry is always facing manpower shortages.

There’s this… underlying stigma where Singaporeans think white-collar jobs are far better than blue-collar jobs, since the latter is associated with hard manual labour, or perhaps, of lower skill.

Evidently, they’ve never seen stacking and balancing acts, and the secret art of picking up things inconspicuously, or holding a well-mannered smile for an entire service shift even when they’re screaming of fatigue inside. 

There’s always a professional at every skill.

High Salaries Offered, Yet No Takers

Owing to this stigma, it’s extremely difficult to find locals who are willing to take up blue-collar jobs.

A Japanese restaurant at Orchard Road offered a $3,500 monthly salary just for dishwashing, and even then, it was a month-long struggle before anyone signed up for the job.

It wasn’t even a Singaporean that accepted it, but a Malaysian.

According to Shin Min Daily News, Ishinomaki Grill & Sake used to have an agreement with a cleaning company for their dishwashing services.

By outsourcing, it ensured that the restaurant would always have someone filling in for the dishwashing position, even if the dishwashers were on rotation, and the quality varied from person to person.

However, this arrangement fell through after the COVID-19 pandemic, when these cleaning companies decided to hike up their prices by 30%.

Chen Weixin, the co-owner of Ishinomaki Grill & Sake told the Chinese newspaper reporters that she was quoted $4,900 for a cleaner by the cleaning company, which is equivalent to a manager’s salary.

They even suggested that she hired three workers due to her restaurant’s workload, which meant that she would be spending $15,000 a month just for dishwashing.

That’s an exorbitant amount to pay for washing dishes, yeesh.

Hence, Ms Chen decided to hire a dishwasher instead, even scaling the salary up to $3,500, which was what university graduates typically make when they’re starting out on their new jobs.

Meanwhile, the co-owner had to literally take things into her own hands and wash the dishes herself, because even offering an additional $50 to her current roster of staff wasn’t enough to persuade them to take on the additional duty.

No Singaporean Wants The Job

To make matters worse for the F&B industry, the recent tightening of foreign labour policies has only made it harder for restaurants to hire workers, since they typically relied on foreign manpower to take up these roles.

All across the board, F&B businesses are offering salaries as high as $4,000 a month for dishwashers.

In order to attract more staff, there’s an additional $3,000 hiring bonus on top of the base salary.

One F&B operator revealed to Shin Min Daily News that they are offering a base salary of $2,600 with a hiring bonus of $2,000.

Additionally, they even have a performance bonus of $1,000 a month.

You would think that with these enticing conditions, more people would be interested.

However, that’s not the case; the same operator admits that they’re still facing a shortage in manpower.

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Why, you might ask?

Lambert Chen, co-owner of Iko Restaurant and Bar along Neil Road, answers the question easily: it’s because the jobs in the F&B industry are demanding and hard work.

You commit most of your hours to the restaurant, to the point it won’t be far to call it your second home.

If the restaurant’s service starts in the morning, you could be awake before the majority of the population are, shuffling sleepily into the kitchen to do the prep work for the day. You’ll be leaving work much later in order to close up the shop. When people are eating, you’re screwing up your own schedule because you’re busy serving them first.

It’s a thankless job, to say nothing of the frustrations you might  have to face throughout the day, like demanding customers, unpredictable accidents, or problems with the supplier.

Thus, some restaurants like Tung Lok Restaurants have gritted their teeth and decided to bear the high costs that the cleaning companies stipulate, because it’s better than having to worry about not having a dishwasher someday.

The Chief Executive of Tung Lok Restaurant, Andrew Tjoe, bluntly stated that they pay $3,800 to $4,000 per worker. Even then, they still need to hire more as the COVID-19-related restrictions relax and more customers flow in.

Others, like Ms Chen, have opted to seek out their own because they really can’t bear the high cost offered by a third-party, no matter how reliable and consistent their services are.

The challenge of hiring dishwashers isn’t new in the F&B industry either; in 2012, Sake Sushi mentioned that they were having troubles hiring a dishwasher, despite offering $3,000 per month.

Just last month, a Malaysian restaurant in Melbourne hired a chef for $5,5000 a month just to flip roti canai.

It’s a tough time for the people in the industry.

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Featured Image: Shutterstock / U2M Brand