Thursday, 21 May 2015

Beer promoters can no longer work at hawker centres

Breweries told to withdraw beer promoters from hawker centres
By Jessica Lim, Consumer Correspondent And Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times, 20 May 2015

THAT friendly hawker centre beer promoter who makes chit-chat as she tops up your glass? You won't be seeing her any more.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has told breweries to withdraw promoters from the 107 markets and hawker centres it manages, The Straits Times understands. Drink stall operators have also been sent letters to remind them of the ban.

Beer promoters, many of them from Vietnam or China, are a common sight at hawker centres and coffee shops, moving from table to table serving drinks and refilling glasses.

But the NEA said they should not work in hawker centres as they are not stallholders or registered stall assistants. It also said beer promotion was not allowed as it could lead to "disamenities" such as touting or harassment of patrons because of competition.

A spokesman said: "Hawker centres are essential social infrastructure and important communal spaces providing a family-friendly, clean and hygienic environment for patrons to enjoy good food at affordable prices."

Hawkers said promoters are paid about $1,000 a month by breweries and earn a commission of five cents to 10 cents a bottle. They also earn tips, which can average $100 a night. There are probably about 600 beer promoters here, with Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Singapore hiring most of them. It declined comment.

But beer wholesaler Lee Hong Kiat, who supplies APB beers such as Tiger and Heineken to 10 hawker centres, said the withdrawal has led to an estimated 25 per cent fall in sales for his firm.

Industry players said it was the first time they had seen such a major clampdown. Six stallholders said beer sales have as much as halved since the promoters left about two weeks ago.

Mr Law Peck Sing, 60, who sells beer at a Whampoa hawker centre, said losing beer promoters was like losing store assistants, as they helped to clear tables and even serve other drinks.

Meanwhile, Lubritrade, which brews Dester beer, will re-deploy its promoters from hawker centres to coffee shops.

Retiree S.G. Lee, 74, said he will miss the promoters. "We are retirees. Honestly, it's nice to have someone to chat with."

But patron Charles Teo, 65, is glad they are history. "They keep pouring. Every sip I take, they will top up. I want to enjoy my drink at my own pace."

Beer promoter Alice Tan, 31, who works at two coffee shops in Toa Payoh, said she earns $35 for a five-hour shift and a five-cent commission for each bottle sold. "It can be quite stressful, especially if there is more than one promoter at a coffee shop."

Additional reporting by Andrea Ng

Clampdown on beer promoters in hawker centres due to feedback from patrons. from touting when...
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Clampdown on beer promotion at hawker centres after feedback
NEA cites complaints from stallholders, patrons; coffee shops doing brisk trade
By Jessica Lim Consumer Correspondent And Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times, 21 May 2015

A RECENT clampdown by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on beer promotion in hawker centres was a result of "feedback" from patrons and stallholders about problems it was causing.

Disamenities include touting or harassment of patrons when promoters compete for business. Active beer promotion also leads to drinkers hogging tables for hours.

In a letter sent to a hawker, NEA said it had conducted a joint enforcement inspection with the Singapore Police Force and found beer promoters at the hawker centre. The agency then requested the stall to "cease engagement" with the beer promoters.

It has not been allowed in hawker centres for those reasons since 1995, said NEA, stressing it would investigate and take enforcement action if it got such feedback.

Breweries were asked a few weeks ago to remove their promoters from the 107 markets and hawker centres managed by NEA. The spokesman said beer companies and stallholders had been "generally cooperative" after being reminded of the regulations.

Only a small number of hawker centres actually have any beer promotion at all, she said.

The clampdown is likely to drive beer promoters to coffee shops, which are privately owned.

At least one brewery, Lubritrade, which brews Dester beer, has said it would redeploy promoters there. The Straits Times understands that Asia Pacific Breweries (APB), which hires a majority of the estimated 600 promoters in Singapore, will likely do the same.

A major coffee shop chain operator, who did not want to be named, also made a request yesterday to beer companies for more promoters.

Hawker stallholders, in the meantime, are chagrined. Mr Charles Law, 30, who manages two drink stalls at a hawker centre in Whampoa, said: "Coffee shops and hawker centres both serve the public. Basically, we are the same kind of business, why should we be treated differently?"

He said beer sales had fallen by at least 30 per cent since the ban.

NEA also said beer promoters cannot work in hawker centres, in any case, as they are not stallholders or registered stall assistants.

Ms Shannen Fong, head of corporate relations at APB, the maker of Tiger Beer, said NEA also permits only Singaporeans or permanent residents to operate or assist at hawker stalls.

Many promoters here are from Vietnam or China, and earn a basic monthly pay of about $1,000, plus tips, to sell and serve beer.

They can work at coffee shops, as long as coffee shop owners abide by foreign worker quotas, said Mr Hong Poh Hin, vice-chairman of the Foo Chow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants' Association.

Meanwhile, coffee shops like the three owned by Mr Thomas Foo in Sims Drive, Geylang and Tampines are doing a brisk trade.

Said Mr Foo, 63: "The beer drinkers are usually regulars, but we are seeing new faces now."

The new customers said they had made the switch to coffee shops as "no one is pouring beer for them" at hawker centres, he said. Mr Foo added that business at his coffee shops has jumped by 30 per cent in the past two weeks.

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