Last Updated on 2023-05-22 , 5:13 pm
In the midst of inflation and escalating food prices, the Government has introduced an innovative online platform to help residents discover cost-effective dining choices in their local neighbourhoods.
Developed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in collaboration with the Government Technology Agency (GovTech), the BudgetMealGoWhere website offers residents the ability to find affordable meal options available in HDB coffee shops near their residential areas.
According to a Facebook post by Ms Sim Ann, the Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, the BudgetMealGoWhere portal is now accessible to the public.
How Does the BudgetGoWhere Portal Work
To find nearby coffee shops and available budget meal options, visitors can enter their postal code in the search box on the site.
The platform is also accessible through the LifeSG application, which provides residents with convenient access to over 100 digital government services.
As of 19 May 2023, the website features around 40 listed coffee shops, and the selection of budget meal options is expected to grow as more establishments join the program in the coming years.
One of the current coffee shops offering budget meals is Foodhub at Blk 455 Sengkang West Ave.
Their Indian Muslim food stall serves Lamb Kway Teow Goreng for only $3.50.
Ms Sim mentioned that by the end of 2023, the website would include listings for up to 130 participating coffee shops, and this number is projected to increase to 370 HDB-owned coffee shops by 2026.
To be categorised as a “budget meal option” on the BudgetMealGoWhere site, the listings must consist of complete meals rather than snacks, kids’ meals, or half-portions.
As a result, residents can now find filling lunch or dinner options on the site, which are more affordable than the average prices at nearby Food and Beverage (F&B) eateries.
Participating stalls will display a budget meal decal sticker on their food display signage to help customers quickly identify the available budget meal options.
Typically, meal options on the site are priced around $3 to $3.50, and basic drinks cost approximately $1 to $1.15 across different coffee shops in various estates.
More Budget Food Meal Options Rolled Out to Combat Rising Food Prices
During the Committee of Supply debate at the Ministry of National Development in March 2023, Ms Sim announced a new policy requiring all HDB-leased coffee shops to offer budget meal options upon their tenancy renewal, starting from May 2023.
This decision is a response to the escalating food prices that have negatively impacted the affordability of local hawker centres and coffee shops.
Due to disruptions to food supply routes from the war between Ukraine and Russia, food prices have been increasing, resulting in hawker food prices rising to a record 14-year high of 8.1% in December 2022.
Ironically, data from the Department of Statistics revealed that this increase was higher than the price hikes observed in restaurants, fast food chains, and food caterers, which remained below 7.5%.
Although the requirement for budget meals has been in place since 2018 for new HDB coffee shops allocated through the Price-Quality Method (PQM) tenders, it will now be extended to all other HDB coffee shops.
HDB to Make Changes to Tenders Provided to Store Operators to Help Ease the Transition
The PQM system evaluates tenders based on various criteria beyond construction costs, including the affordability of food and beverage options.
This approach allows HDB to better cater to residents’ needs while ensuring sustainable rental rates for operators.
As a result, starting May 2023, all coffee shops up for lease renewal will be required to offer four budget meal options.
This includes food offerings like economic rice with two vegetables and one meat, chicken rice, fishball noodles, and mee rebus.
In addition, participating store operators must include at least two budget drink options, such as kopi-o and teh-o.
This condition is essential for the renewal of their three-year tenancy.
These new tenancy requirements will gradually lead to the availability of budget meals to be available at up to 374 HDB rental coffee shops by 2026.
To facilitate the transition for coffee shop operators and stallholders, HDB will provide a 5% discount on renewal rents for one year following the renewal of the tenancy, contingent upon verification that the new budget meals and drinks have been implemented.
More Affordable Meal Options to Come; Public Feedback Encouraged
In order to ensure that affordable cooked food options are accessible to all residents, HDB has consistently provided ample coffee shops in every HDB town and estate.
In the past five years, starting from 2018, HDB has constructed 37 new coffee shops across various estates, and they are continuously building new ones to cater to the needs of new HDB developments.
An additional 34 coffee shops are scheduled to be completed by 2028 to meet the demands of residents.
Additionally, as the BudgetMealGoWhere initiatives are still relatively new, the Government encourages public members to provide feedback on the website to facilitate further improvements over the years.
Public members are also encouraged to share their feedback directly with participating stall owners if they find the food offerings unsatisfactory.
Meanwhile, the Government has affirmed its commitment to collaborate closely with F&B businesses and operators to enhance and expand the implementation of budget meals while considering their commercial interests.
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