Want To Be As 'Rich' As A Hawker? You Need At Least $18,000 Just To Start
 
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Want To Be As 'Rich' As A Hawker? You Need At Least $18,000 Just To Start

Kenneth Fong
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While I was scrolling through my FaceBook feed, I stumbled upon this:

545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles Hiring Cook
Source: 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles | FaceBook

Yep, you read that right.

They’re offering $2,500 to $3,400 for you to cook prawn noodles! And considering this economy that we’re in, that’s damn good, please.

But this also got me thinking… If they can afford to pay this much for a cook, how much do I actually need to be a hawker in Singapore? And more importantly, can I be rich as a hawker?


TL;DR: How Much Does It Cost To Be A Hawker?

Bowl Of Noodles

  • You’ll need to cough up $18,198 upfront in order to be a hawker
  • Best case scenario where you get 200 customers a day and sell your prawn noodles at $5 a bowl, you can expect to make $5,802 profit in the first month
  • A more realistic scenario (since you’re just starting out) is where you get 50 customers a day, sell your prawn noodles at $4 a bowl, and expect to make -$12,918 loss in the first month

How Do I Become A Hawker?

Hawker In Blue Apron

Before we go any further, here’re a couple of basic requirements that you’ll have to meet if you plan to be a hawker.

You MUST be:

  • A Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • 21 years old and above

And you MUST NOT be:

  • A former assistant or nominee who was de-registered by NEA
  • Already renting or a joint operator of 2 cooked stalls managed by NEA
  • An undischarged bankrupt
  • Banned by the Government/Statutory Boards from taking part in all business tenders
  • Banned from holding a hawker license by NEA (erm… duh?)

Bidding For Your Stall Under NEA’s Tender Scheme

National Environment Agency NEA Logo

NEA’s monthly Tender Scheme, for hawker stalls under NEA management, typically starts on the 13th of every month and ends on the 26th of the same month.

If you’re successful in the bid, you will rent the stall for three years.

Tender Document and Submission Envelopes A and B: $10


Monthly Hawker Stall Rental

Amoy Street Food Centre
Source: TimeOut

Your monthly rental for your hawker stall is subjected to a bid. Obviously, a hawker stall in a popular place like Amoy Street Food Centre is going to cost more.

This starts anywhere from $49 a month for an Indian cuisine stall at Mei Chin Road, to a whopping $10,218 a month for a drink store at Chomp Chomp Food Centre. To be fair, that last amount was an outlier – the tenant ended the tenancy agreement on the same day of signing it.

I mean, can you imagine how many cups of sugarcane you’d have to sell a day just to make rent? Damn siao, please.

According to NEA, the average successful tender bid for cooked food stalls under NEA is around $1,514 in 2018.

You’ll also have to put down a deposit of two month’s rent. Of which one month’s rent should be put down as a Cashier’s Order that will be forfeited if you do not commence operations within three months of successful bidding.

Deposit for two months of rental: $3,028


Hawker License

NEA Hawker License
Source: Mothership

This is pretty straightforward.

You drive a car in Singapore also need a driver’s license right…

Hawker license for three years: $39


Basic Food Hygiene Course (BFHC)

Workforce Skills Qualification WSQ Logo

You’ll also need to undergo a 7-hour Basic Food Hygiene Course, followed by a 1.5-hour assessment. Oh, the assistant whom you hire to handle food will also need to go through the course.

Cost of attending the BFHC for you and one assistant (before SkillsFuture funding): $321


Setting Up Your Hawker Stall

Stainless Steel Chicken Rice Hawker Stall
Source: @a_cal_enterprise | Carousell

For reference, I found the above stainless steel chicken rice stall on Carousell for $850.

This will probably form the bulk of your sunk cost if you’re really serious about being a hawker. Because you’ll need stuff like:

  • Metalwork (eg. kitchen counters, hoods, food prep surfaces etc.)
  • Kitchen equipment (eg. stoves, ovens,  etc.)
  • Utensils (eg. cutlery, plates, bowls, cups, glasses etc.)

A really, really conservative guess-timation with regard to how much you need to make your stall look and operate legit: $8,000


Operating Fees

NEA Monthly Tender Notice
Source: NEA

Apart from monthly rental, you’ll also have to pay:

  • Table cleaning fees (~$400, might be higher if it’s a hawker centre with dishwashers and etc.)
  • Service & conservancy fees (~$200)
  • Refuse disposal fees, and etc.

A conservative monthly expectation: $1,000


Hiring An Assistant

Hand Serve Meal

While 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles is offering $2,500 a month as a starting salary for a cook. That kind of remuneration is not really the industry standard.

However, assistants don’t come cheap either.

They’re going to have to:

  • Brave the heat of the kitchen
  • Man the stall with you in the wee hours of the morning till night (if you wish to maximise your profits)
  • Prep the food and maybe even cook some
  • Wash and clean up the stall

So they’ll be expecting something like $1,800 to $2,400 a month.

You’re going to need at least one person with you to take orders or serve customers while you whip up your dishes.

Assuming you only hire one assistant at the lowest rate possible: $1,800


Raw Materials

Crate With Ingredients

According to a CNA interview, a prawn noodle hawker typically spends about $2,400 on prawns in a week – this is assuming he sells about 20kg of prawns daily and works six days a week.

Let’s say we decide to sell prawn noodles as well. We’ll need to factor in other ingredients like:

  • Fishcake
  • Meat
  • Noodles
  • Oil
  • Onions

And we ignore the fact that you might mess up and drop stuff, or food might spoil in this ridiculous Singapore heat.

An agar-ation of how much you’d be spending on raw materials in your first month: $4,000


How Much Does It Cost To Be A Hawker?

Shiny Japanese Yen
Source: giphy

Yeah… It’ll cost you more than that…

BreakdownCost
Tender DocumentS$10
Rental (2 Month's Deposit)S$3,028
Hawker LicenseS$39
Basic Food Hygiene Course (2 Pax)S$321
Initial Setup$8,000
Monthly Operating FeesS$1,000
Assistant's SalaryS$1,800
Monthly Raw MaterialsS$4,000
Total UpfrontS$18,198

And this is just the upfront cost you need to fork out to START as a hawker. I didn’t even go into monthly overheads like utilities and etc.


Are Hawkers Really Rich?

money bag and hand

We all know the myths.

The uncle standing behind the counter frying char kway teow, probably drives to work in a BMW 5 Series and lives in some 2-storey tall bungalow on Nassim Hill Road.

Similarly, the makcik dishing out nasi padang probably carries thick wads of $50 and $100 notes stuffed in her battered, old purse – enough to pay the downpayment on a 3-room HDB flat.

That might have been true in the past, but it’s hard to make a living now as a hawker.

How hard you ask?

Well… I asked the uncle selling prawn noodles at Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre (his business is quite brisk and there are even long queues on the weekends) what’s the most number of customers he has ever seen on a good day. His answer: 200.

Assuming you start your own prawn noodle store, and you somehow magically have a recipe which attracts a regular stream of customers EVERY. DAMN. DAY. You’ll be expecting about 200 customers a day. And at $5 a bowl of prawn noodles, that means you’re looking at a $1,000 daily revenue.

If you work six days a week, for an entire month, that makes it: $1,000 x 24 days = $24,000 monthly revenue.

So technically within the first month, you should be able to make: $24,000 – $18,198 = $5,802 profit.

Mr Krabs I Like Money
Source: SpongeBob SquarePants | giphy

Heck, that’s even more than I make (hint hint, Bossman).

.

.

.

However, the reality is more like this:

When you start your own prawn noodle store, you’ll have to wait for business to pick up and for your reputation to grow. You’ll probably get about 50 customers a day, and at $4 a bowl of prawn noodles, that means you’re looking at a $200 daily revenue.

If you decide to pia (Hokkien for ‘fight it out’) and work seven days a week, for an entire month, that makes it: $200 x 30 days = $6,000 monthly revenue

Your earnings in the first month: $6,000 – $18,198 = -$12,918 loss.

Doesn’t look so easy now huh?

And that’s just for the first month, if you’re lucky and your prawn noodles are good, your monthly revenue should pick up and eventually cover your startup as well as your monthly cost. If footfall sucks and your prawn noodles get 0 out of 5 stars on Food King and Daniel Food Diary, then you #passaway sia.

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About Kenneth Fong
Editor of Seedly's blog. Owner of a 4-room HDB BTO and married to a financial clutz. Probably the closest to an adult you can find on the Seedly team.
You can contribute your thoughts like Kenneth Fong here.

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