Beng Who Cooks At Neil Road Closing Due 60% Rental Increase & Manpower Shortage
Rental is often the biggest expense for any F&B business in Singapore.
Many establishments have had to shut down due to high rental costs despite being well-patronised.
Beng Who Cooks, a restaurant at 39 Neil Road, has now become the latest casualty after their rent was increased by 60%.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you might remember them as the hawker stall that donated meals to the needy during the ‘Circuit Breaker’.
Beng Who Cooks closing on 15 Oct
In a Facebook post on 30 Sep, Beng Who Cooks announced that they would be closing on Saturday (15 Oct).
Those who want to see them off can attend their Moving Out Party on 14 and 15 Oct.
They will also host exclusive omakase dining at S$90 per person for five days from 17 to 21 Oct. Pre-book the dinners here.
While they promised that they’ll be back, they struck a note of uncertainty by adding, “Maybe… I don’t know.”
Landlord asks for 60% rental increase
As for why they’re closing, founder Jason Chua told Shin Min Daily News that the main reason was due to the rental increase.
His two-year rental contract is due to expire at the end of Oct, the 30-year-old revealed.
When they were discussing the renewal, the landlord asked for a whopping 60% increase, Mr Chua said.
That would have raised the amount from a four-figure sum to a five-figure sum, he added.
Restaurant faces manpower shortage
Another difficulty faced was a familiar one in the F&B industry — a shortage of manpower.
Currently, the restaurant has just three full-time staff — Mr Chua, his partner Hung Zhen Long and a chef.
Besides them, he relies on six student part-timers.
As school has restarted for them, the business is now understaffed.
Young child played a part in decision to close
Mr Chua, who has a child aged six months old, told AsiaOne that that also played a part in his decision to close.
As he’s working more than 100 hours a week, he hasn’t been able to spend much time with his family.
Thus, the rental increase was ostensibly the last straw.
He saw it as a sign that it was time to take a break, he said.
Beng Who Cooks gave out 25,000 free meals in 2020
Beng Who Cooks started out as a hawker stall serving protein bowls at Hong Lim Market and Food Centre.
During the ‘Circuit Breaker’ in 2020, they memorably gave out free meals to anyone in need despite suffering from a dip in business themselves.
Beng Who Cooks Hawker Promises Free Meals To Those In Need, Just DM On Instagram To Order
Mr Chua and his friends also set up the Beng Who Cares Foundation, delivering free meals to the needy who send a message to them.
The earnest young men did this completely out of goodwill, and from their own pockets.
They ended up distributing over 50 free meals to Singaporeans every day, and 25,000 in total during the ‘Circuit Breaker’.
For these efforts, Mr Chua and Mr Hung each received a special commendation for the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards 2020 Special Edition.
In Nov 2020, Beng Who Cooks moved into 39 Neil Road, and became a fusion-food restaurant.
Unfortunately, after a two-year run, they’ll have to shutter despite their business possibly picking up after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.
High rental costs affect everyone
It’s really sad that an F&B business that has done so much for the needy in Singapore has to close down.
Looks like even an award-winning force for good in society can’t escape the vagaries of high rental costs.
If you want to support Beng Who Cooks one last time, here are their details to note:
Address: 39 Neil Road, Singapore 088823
Phone: 9339 8445
Opening hours: 10.30am-3pm, 5.30-10.30pm (Mon-Sat), 10.30am-3pm (Sun)
Nearest MRT: Outram Park
Socials: Website, Facebook & Instagram
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Featured image adapted from Google Maps and @bengwhocooks on Instagram.
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