As hawker, we have scruples whenever mentioning about price increase. The public expectation of hawker to remain or maintain a ‘reasonable price’ for a ‘quality food’ weighing heavily upon the shoulder of hawker. Failure in doing so will face chastising by some of the consumers.
It is in the stark reality when hawker has to pay the full market price for almost everything, ranging from food cost, manpower cost, logistic etc while still able to deliver quality food at reasonable price (subsidized price). This is on top of the fact that many hawker work for 12-15 hours per day, (almost) every day that merely earns reasonable income, and at the same time the cost has increased considerably, while inflation is creeping up year by year.
Keeping a lid on price while maintaining the quality of food is an impossible task.
One may resort to adulterate the ingredients by sourcing out cheaper alternatives when preparing food, the other may cut down the portion, or as for the last resort some will bite the bullet to absorb the cost (which is not sustainable in the long run) just to keep the price down.
For one thing, consumer must understand that a hawker who insists on not using certain kind of ingredient, for eg, MSG, will simply had to use pure/natural ingredients that can produce such flavor that is exponentially better than MSG (in terms of taste and health), which will cost (a lot) more.
We are here not to grumble or be disgruntled about what we should pay for market price for our suppliers, or all the vendors. (If it’s reasonable) We get it.
It is utmost important for consumer to understand where the hawker stand is, and become our partner along the journey, instead of working like an antagonizing counterpart when there is price increase on hawker food. And we are glad that majority of our customers are indeed our partner in this case.
We are working towards the sustainable way- by not adulterating the ingredients, cutting down the portion, nor using lower grade ingredients as substitute, but increase the price at reasonable range so that the business is sustainable in the long run, and channel back all the profits (if any) into improving productivity, in keeping the price in check and affordable.
Hawker toil at stall to prepare (wonderful) food for public while earning their fair share of returns. It will have bright future when the majority of public do understand the reason behind the price increase (if any), and consumer will be able to enjoy great food at affordable price in the long run.
One thing is for sure, that hawker who increased the price at reasonable range is not rapacious businessman, or rather just a blue-to-white collar worker who is earning some fair share or returns in hard labor.
And it comes the following question:
How could some hawkers able to sell a food at a lower price, while you claimed that you can’t, and they are still surviving for years?
To answer it, one must first understand that for the majority, if not every product or service, is bound to have a thing – Grading.
A wine, an egg, a car, a watch, prawn, a bag etc, has its grade. Grade A, Grade B, Grade C and so on.
We are not here to extol elitism or being snobbish by claiming that whoever that prefers the Grade B or Grade C, is a cheapskate. It is up to the preference of consumer.
We produce Rojak in such a way that we could pronounce ourselves as we are in the Grade A type of Rojak, while for such claim will for sure encounter criticism, contempt, jeering along the way by some consumers inevitably, that we will always ask ourselves if we have stood up the test, and we always state that we are not going out there to mislead the consumer, nor will be getting rich by doing one time business in F&B industry.
Some consumers may claim that they found certain type of food at Grade A while the price is say Grade C. We, as consumer, can tell that we have found little of such product that possess Grade A quality in food while selling at Grade C price. The most that we can find is the vendor selling Grade A food, at Grade B price.
There is no benchmark in terms of what consists of Grade A/B/C for any product (that it is subjective), but one can grade the price as Grade A/B/C. For eg, Grade C price is anything that is <$4. Grade B anything <$8. Grade A anything <$12.
You can now then find some wonderful food in hawker centre that selling Grade A product, at Grade B price.
And to answer that question – if any seller that you encounter that sells Grade A product at Grade C price, you must quickly grab it while it still lasts. We can only say that the seller is giving out the majority of his/her fair share of expected earnings to the consumer, and we will argue that it is not sustainable business model.
The question must instead be:
Is it sustainable in the long run to be able to find an absolutely wonderful food at affordable price?
And the even more pertinent question:
How is it sustainable in the long run to be able to find an absolutely wonderful food at affordable price?
If an absolutely wonderful food is heavily subsidized at the expense of the current vendor/owner, and if the current vendor/owner is retiring, taken over, it would not be hard to imagine the price would revert back to the ‘normal price’, that is Grade B or Grade A price.
And if consumer can understand about this, it is the foremost relationship that consumer and hawker must forge beforehand – partnership, instead of the kind of antagonizing foe of relationship, that (then) the quality of food at affordable price will be able to retain in the long run.