This is not a review. It’s more like a commentary about the current labour crunch faced by one of many small, mom & pop F&B operators in Singapore. Also, look for the call for help at the end of this post.
About a month ago, my wife published a review on her blog about this nifty little place near Little India called?320? Below Nitro Cream Cafe. About a day or two after that post was published, the owners of the cafe announced on their Facebook page that they were closing down the business.
We were shocked to say the least. It was Xander’s favourite ice cream parlour, and it was also such a unique concept, we couldn’t fathom how they would not be able to sustain themselves. So I decided to see if I could find out why.
A few hours after I heard the news, I posted this on my Facebook page and personal FB wall:
Two days later, one of the owners, Susan, responded.
We met up a week later at their cafe (the shutters were still down). Both Susan and her partner Keith said they’ve had no problems breaking even since they started in October last year, so the business is financially sound. But the problem was manpower; they couldn’t find someone to help them manage the day-to-day operations and part-timers were also very hard to come by. By the time my wife got to talk about them on her blog, they were all burnt out keeping the place running by themselves.
I’ve seen other perfectly healthy F&B businesses go belly up because of the exact same issue. Hock Lam Beef Noodle’s flagship Upper Serangoon shophouse shut down unceremoniously, and for 3 days (I think), they put up a banner on the front of their shop blaming the government’s foreign labour restriction policy for their inability to find hired help (it was a large banner, with a long writeup).
With?320? Below, the problem they presented was that they didn’t have the requisite number of locals in their employ to hire people who actually wanted to work in an ice cream shop – and the pool of ready F&B job hunters mostly hail from overseas. After speaking with a number of friends in the F&B business, I realised this was a problem?felt widely across ?the industry (except maybe for Eighteen Chefs). But somehow, the idea just didn’t sit right with me.
So ultimately, The Blogfather is writing this for 2 reasons (and unfortunately, money is not one of them – and neither is free ice cream).
1. This is my son’s (and my nieces’ and nephew’s) favourite ice cream parlour. I’ve personally had quite enough of standing by watching helplessly as good dreams such as this fade off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Also, my wife is living in the fear that the next food review she puts out will cause the business she’s writing about to also close down (apparently this is not the first time), so I’m trying to break the curse. And if it all doesn’t work out, at least I know I bloody tried.
2. I believe there are locals – and lots of us – who are perfectly fine with working in the F&B service line; just that Susan and Keith, being new inductees into the industry (they previously had very established careers in the finance sector before starting the cafe) were simply looking for help in the wrong places.
But where should they really be looking? This is where I need your help.
320? Below is now looking for a manager for their cafe, as well as a team of permanent part-timers who like to serve up unique, fully customisable freshly concocted nitro cream in KitchenAid Artisan mixers. They need help keeping the dream alive, so if you know anyone who would like to give it a shot, or are interested in it yourself, do give the nice couple with the neat little cornershop a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you’re curious about what exactly they serve up (you can see from what Xander’s eating that this is not the usual ice cream you get anywhere else),?320? Below has since reopened, albeit only on weekends for now (Fri-Sat, 2pm-12am and Sundays, 2pm-11pm) until the cafe manages to staff itself up good and proper – or die trying.