Mr Lim Hock Lye, the owner of Beaulieu House, had no choice but to close his seafood restaurant completely during circuit breaker.
Located in Sembawang Park, Beaulieu House would often receive customers from travel groups before COVID-19. Furthermore, many major events like Chinese New Year reunion dinner would also be held there.
When COVID-19 broke out, it took a toll on the restaurant. All Food & Beverage (F&B) outlets located in the park, including Beaulieu House, were unable to operate during circuit breaker when the National Parks Board (NParks) announced to close the entire park.
It was hard on Mr Lim as he had to survive on zero income for two and a half months. Moreover, Mr Lim had to provide foreign staff housing allowance.
“We had to keep paying our workers salary to retain them so they wouldn’t leave,” says Mr Lim.
As Beaulieu House is a tenant of NParks, they are supported by the government’s rental waiver of 4 months during their closure.
“If circuit breaker had continued without the support from the government, it would’ve been tough,” says Mr Lim.
The total F&B sales saw a plunge from $681 million in March to $401 million in April 2020, according to the Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS).
Beaulieu House was not the only one who struggled during circuit breaker. According to DOS, the F&B Services Index for restaurants dropped by 54.8 per cent from March to May 2020.
When Beaulieu House opened up again in Phase Two, the business was slow, but it picked up gradually.
“People were still cautious in the first two weeks, but as time goes by, they may be tired of the takeaways, so they come out to eat,” says Mr Lim.
He also realised that since COVID-19 has restricted overseas travels, his restaurant has customers coming from all over Singapore to discover the history of his restaurant building. According to Beaulieu House, it is a colonial building with 110 years of history, which was apparently used by the Japanese as headquarters during the Japanese Occupation.
“We have customers travelling from Jurong, Choa Chu Kang, East Coast and all these [places]. Because they want to discover Singapore, they travel around to find food, so I see a lot of new faces.”
Since Beaulieu House could not operate at all during circuit breaker, they could not provide any online food services for their customers. Although they have tried offering online services before the pandemic, it did not do so well.
“We tried for 2 weeks, but it didn’t work very well, you know only one or two orders,” says Mr Lim.
While Beaulieu House has not introduced online food services as of yet, other restaurants have already been doing so. According to DOS, the online sales proportion increased from 15.6 per cent% in March to 44.6 percent in May 2020.
“I hope when we introduce delivery services, we can try to increase our sales,” says Mr Lim.
Edited by: Rachel Sin Ka Lam
Proofread by: Anmi Chou Shigeta