In July this year, Corner House marked its fourth anniversary. That a fine-dining restaurant has survived for more than three years in our highly competitive F&B industry is a very good, and perhaps rather unexpected, thing. I say this because we continually face many challenges, with the biggest being the high operational costs of running a restaurant. Manpower is especially expensive here, and we require 30 staff members to helm a restaurant that can accommodate 60 guests – but we often cap it at about 40 guests per service.
Recently, fine-dining establishments have also seen increasing competition from fast-casual restaurants. These eateries combine high-quality cuisine with counter service, eliminating the need for traditional waitstaff. While this dining trend hasn’t taken off in Singapore as it has in cities like San Francisco, London and Melbourne, it’s just a matter of time before it does.
“Fast-casual options – with their speedy service and no-nonsense food – complement today’s hectic lifestyles”
I believe that the main reason for the rise in the popularity of fast-casual dining is time – or, more accurately, a lack thereof. People are so busy these days that they rarely have the luxury of sitting through a three-hour, full-service, fine-dining meal. Instead, these fast-casual options – with their speedy service and no-nonsense food – complement today’s hectic lifestyles. Plus, the lower price point is attractive.
On the business side of things, such operations allow you to keep the initial startup costs and investment capital low, and month-to-month operational costs are significantly lower. In a fine-dining restaurant, your food costs alone can be 40% of your total expenditure; while, in a fast-casual set-up, you can get that percentage down to 20 to 25%.
Some restaurateurs choose to run both fine-dining and fast-casual restaurants. In certain cases, the fast-casual establishment actually serves to finance the fine-dining one by bringing in a steady stream of revenue.
I think that the fast-casual concept is here to stay, but I don’t think these eateries will edge out fine-dining restaurants. Both genres can co-exist – after all, a developed society needs an array of F&B options, from fine-dining spots and fast-casual spaces to chain eateries and hawker centres. Ultimately, we each serve our own purpose. What unites the best of us is our willingness to push culinary boundaries through innovation, which is essential for the evolution of what we eat.
This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine