New scheme to help retiring hawkers pass down stalls, recipes and skills to aspiring ones

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·4 min read
People buying food from the hawker stalls at Singapore's Albert Centre Market and Food Centre.
People buying food from the hawker stalls at Singapore's Albert Centre Market and Food Centre. (PHOTO: Then Chih Wey/Xinhua via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A new Hawkers Succession Scheme (HSS) is being piloted by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to help retiring veteran hawkers in Singapore pass down their stalls, recipes and culinary skills to younger ones.

The agency said in a media release on Saturday (26 December) that the scheme, which will be piloted in the next two years, will see aspiring hawkers being assessed on their culinary skills before NEA facilitates to pair them with retiring veteran hawkers.

Upon selection and pairing, they will undergo an apprenticeship period under the veteran hawkers for a few months to learn the ropes of running a successful hawker business, and hone their culinary practices and skills.

The new scheme will complement existing programmes such as the Incubation Stall Programme and Hawkers’ Development Programme, both of which do not offer hawker succession in terms of facilitating the handover of existing stalls and hawker businesses.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, provided details of the scheme on Saturday during the launch of SG HawkerFest, a campaign to commemorate the successful inscription of Singapore’s hawker culture into UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

“Under the HSS, we will facilitate the transfer of hawker stalls and recipes from retiring veteran hawkers to aspiring successors through a carefully paired apprenticeship and mentorship programme,” she said.

“We will continue to encourage new entrants into the trade through initiatives such as the Incubation Stall Programme and the HSS.”

Hawkers must pass food tasting test to take over stalls under HSS

The HSS will benefit veteran stallholders with at least 15 years of experience operating their businesses at hawker centres, who would like to retire but face difficulties finding suitable successors.

NEA said the scheme is not intended to replace commercial arrangements, which can be executed within existing hawker policy and guidelines.

“For hawker businesses with compelling commercial value, they will not have a shortage of suitors to buy over their recipes and brands,” the agency said in the media release.

“There is no strong justification for the government to spend public funds to acquire or transfer brands and recipes for the benefit of private individuals or entities.”

To ensure a smooth succession, the apprenticeship under the veteran hawker can be continued in the form of a mentorship programme, even after the aspiring hawker has taken over the stall from the veteran hawker. The veteran hawker will be paid a nominal stipend for his or her effort and time in guiding the aspiring hawker during this period.

To ensure that the veteran hawker’s legacy is sufficiently safeguarded, the scheme will require the aspiring hawkers to pass a food tasting test before they can successfully take over the veteran stallholders’ stalls. Those who passed the test will still be subject to certain conditions, pertaining to stall’s brand and signature dish offerings, for a period of time.

Existing hawkers policy will be relaxed for eligible veteran and aspiring hawkers to facilitate succession. For non-subsidised veteran stallholders, the current policy of limiting their assignment of stalls only to family members or relatives will be relaxed.

For subsidised veteran stallholders, they will still be offered the ex-gratia payment, which is currently given out to them only when they hand over their stall to NEA upon retirement and exit the trade.

SG HawkerFest to let public rediscover hawker culture

The SG HawkerFest will be held over three weekends from Saturday (26 December) to 11 January, and allows the public to rediscover Singapore’s hawker culture and express their wishes for future hawker centres.

Through a web application, participants can take part in quizzes on hawker centres and the hawkers who had contributed to Singapore’s food and cultural heritage. They will be awarded virtual badges for completed the quizzes, and these can be exchanged for dining vouchers redeemable at 29 participating hawker centres.

A total of 24,000 vouchers, in denominations of $2, will be made available.

Other celebratory activities include a webinar on hawker culture, and a hawkers’ seminar, a platform for hawkers to come together and exchange ideas to sustain the hawker trade.

Stallholders in more than 110 hawker centres will also receive a decal, a goodie bag containing tokens of appreciation sponsored by supporting partners, and a commemorative CEPAS card to commemorate the inscription.

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