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30 November 2011 - Restaurants urged to make jobs more attractive as they turn to Singaporean

30 November 2011 - RESTAURATEURS facing staff shortages will have to work harder to sign on more Singaporeans as the Government is firm on keeping the foreign-worker quota for the industry.

Speaking on the sidelines of an Excellent Service Award ceremony for the food and beverage sector yesterday, labour MP Yeo Guat Kwang noted that as the number of foreign workers will always be dependent on that of locals, firms should make the service jobs more attractive to Singaporeans.

But he added: “I don’t see any chance, with Singapore’s birth rate, that our local workforce will grow very much. We have to work within the means, we will try to do more with the same number of workers.”

Currently, across all industries, the ratio of local to foreign workers is 2:1. That “glass ceiling” will remain, Mr Yeo said, adding that this is why the Government is investing in skills training for Singaporeans to “run faster and perform better”. The latest initiative is a tie-up between the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) and NTUC LearningHub to provide courses conducted by the United States-based Disney Institute, tailored for the F&B sector.

The courses will teach those in the industry, from frontline staff to management, the Disney approach to providing good service. Singaporeans and permanent residents pay only a tenth of the fees – from $725 to $1,400 – after government subsidies.

RAS president Ang Kiam Meng said the courses will focus on issues and scenarios specific to the sector to help raise service standards. He noted that the F&B industry had shown improvement in the recent Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore with a score of 67.5 out of 100, 3.7 per cent higher than last year. “It is encouraging but it’s not as much as
we want it to be and we hope to improve on the index,” said Mr Ang.

The F&B sector’s improvement was reflected in the record number of Excellent Service Awards given out by guest of honour Mr Yeo yesterday.

Close to 1,700 individuals from 59 restaurants received Star, Gold and Silver honours. Their employers included Hans Cafe, the Tung Lok Group, Lo and Behold Group, and McDonald’s.

One of the Star award winners was Mr Ni Zhao Luan, an assistant restaurant manager at Jumbo Seafood. Having already won Silver and Gold prizes in previous years, he said he was keen to attend more training to do better. “I hope the company will send me for the new courses so that I can provide better service to my customers,” added the 35-year-old permanent resident from China.

Mr Yeo, also president of the Consumers Association of Singapore, also spoke to reporters about a compulsory CaseTrust insurance scheme for the spa industry, which he said had worked well. He cited an example of a spa which had applied
to be accredited to be on the scheme but was found to be running at a loss of almost $1 million a year.

“This case showed that our move is in the right direction. If the spas are found not to be eligible for the insurance, then we will reconsider their CaseTrust accreditation,” he said.

Of the 178 accredited spas, 57 already have insurance facilities for customers who buy pre-paid packages while 66 are exempted as they operate on a pay-per-use basis. Mr Yeo said the other 55 spas
have until Dec 31 to get on the insurance scheme.

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