Say hello to self-operating systems and state-of-the-art vending machines.
Increasingly, heartland coffee shops and hawker centres are undergoing a digital transformation, with customers making orders and payment at on-site kiosks or via mobile app. Don’t worry, you’ll still get to enjoy the same affordable comfort food – just minus the fuss.
CI YUAN HAWKER CENTRE (51 Hougang Avenue 9)
The airy 640-seat Ci Yuan Hawker Centre champions young ‘hawkerpreneurs’ as they play a part to preserve Singapore’s hawker scene. The bright red self-payment kiosks found at all 40 stalls address hygiene concerns since stallholders no longer have to handle cash. We hear a self-ordering system is on its way too!
How does it work?
Step 1: Place your order at the stall and the stallholder will key it into the system
Step 2: Insert cash into the machine and collect your change
Step 3: Collect your food
CHANG CHENG – FOODTASTIC (818 Choa Chu Kang Ave 1)
You’ll be spoilt for choice at FoodTastic, a high-tech foodcourt by Chang Cheng. Order from 20 food categories and over 300 items—think dim sum, roasted delights and Western cuisine—all at one go through the six self-service order and payment terminals. You no longer have to queue multiple times! Dishes are whipped up in a central kitchen kitted with technologically advanced machinery to increase productivity and ensure quality standards, while robots assist in keeping the space clean.
KOUFU (Block 872C Tampines Street 86)
Available at six locations (100 AM, Square2, White Sands, JEM, Tampines and Waterway Point), Koufu’s new mobile app powered by DBS FasTrack allows you to beat the crowd and make the best of your lunch hour by ordering in advance. In addition to the app, Happy Hawkers in Tampines is equipped with a self-order kiosk at every stall, where customers can order food from any other stall at the same time.
How does it work?
Step 1: Place order via self-service kiosk or mobile app
Step 2: Select preferred mode of payment
Step 3: Collect receipt with queue number
Step 4: Collect food when queue number appears on display screen Step 5: Return tray to smart robots roaming around
LAWN @ Republic Polytechnic
BevEat encourages customers to dine for a cause. Every transaction through the mobile app gives back to the community, with 20% of growth profits donated to your preferred charity. Furthermore, the company also creates job opportunities for people with disabilities.
How does it work?
Step 1: Download BevEat
Step 2: Nominate a charity
Step 3: Top-up your eWallet at the BevEat Cash Top-up Kiosk (refundable) or via iBanking
Step 4: Select Dine-In or Takeaway, download eMenu and order
Step 5: Collect food when notified by app
DBS FasTrack was implemented to solve the problem of long queues. With dining establishments such as Aloha Poke, Boon Tong Kee, Miam Miam and Tiong Bahru Bakery on board, get your craving fixed in a jiffy by downloading their respective restaurant apps, all powered by DBS FasTrack. All it takes is a few taps on the screen—add to cart and check out with your DBS/POSB credit card—then wait for a notification to collect your food for dine-in or takeaway.
TRENDY & TECH-SAVVY
Food that’s all convenience and no fun can be a drag. These snazzy establishments combine modern technology with fresh and exciting dining concepts.
Five Square, a buzzing 13,000 sq ft space near Hong Lim Park, is split into three areas. At the Bar, enjoy $5 house pours—wines, spirits, sake, umeshu and half-pint Kronenbourg lager—as well as live music on weekdays from 7.30pm. Whisky lovers can withdraw to the Recess, a private space with an impressive whisky collection sold at affordable prices. The Bazaar, the largest of the three spaces, features six food stalls of various cuisines— from $6 small plates at Cinqo Tapas to $16 kaisendon (seafood bowl) at Teppei Syokudo. Each stall has a self-ordering kiosk which takes only cashless payment, and an SMS prompts you when your food is ready for collection. #01-03 Great Eastern Centre, 1 Pickering Street. Tel: 8798 0245
OUE SOCIAL KITCHEN
Opened on 3 Aug, OUE Social Kitchen is a communal cooking space for friends, families and co-workers. It has eight cooking stations (two of which are Halal-friendly) complete with kitchen equipment, utensils and cookware. Book a time slot ($45/ hour) as you would a barbecue pit via the Downtown Gallery app, order drinks at the bar, and get cooking! You can bring your own ingredients (perhaps from the nearby supermarket at 100 AM) or purchase pre-packed ingredients ($15/pax) to make dishes such as spicy seafood linguine and Thai green chicken curry. Feel like a kitchen disaster waiting to happen? No fear—a chef and other staff members are around to assist at all times. #03-02 Downtown Gallery, 6A Shenton Way. Tel: 6513 7727
Located at Clarke Quay in the alley leading to Zouk, Get Juiced is Singapore‘s first cashless bar. No more trying to catch the bartender‘s attention—instead, submit your order through a mobile app (which also takes song requests), then collect the drinks when your queue number flashes on the screen. Like Five Square, the venue is divided into three concepts: the Live space (from 7pm) hosts a band; the Chill space (from 6pm) offers $5 house spirits and draught beer; and the Dance space (from 10pm) features a DJ at the turntables. Arriving with a large entourage? Order 25 shots for $60 or 50 for $100 (flavours include melon spritz and caramel milk). Best of all, entry is free. #02-01 Clarke Quay, 3E River Valley Road. Tel: 6208 7293
FRESH FROM THE VENDING MACHINE
While we’ve never had anything like the automats of America or astonishing innovations of Japan, this year has seen the remarkable rise of fresh meals from vending machines.
Shake Salad delivers healthy, premium and surprisingly satisfying salads at affordable prices. Starting at $4.90 (with $1 add-ons such as fusilli and chicken breast), the salads are incredibly fresh because the raw produce is restocked daily, while other components are sealed in nitrogen-enriched air, greatly extending shelf life. The machines also offer cut fruit, sandwiches and three types of granola. Highly recommended!
Available outside NUS Central Library and at Block 57 in SUTD, the Chef Mario vending machine produces piping hot 10-inch pizzas ($8.90) in two flavours, pepperoni and Hawaiian. Their ingredients, down to flour and cheese, are largely sourced from Italy, and the patented pizza oven, flanked by freezers, is able to heat up instantly to 400°C so that your pizza is delivered through the hatch in under four minutes.
What started over 20 years ago as a humble coffee shop stall in Bedok has now moved into large-scale distribution, overseas operations and, most recently, vending machines. With 10 locations across Singapore, Mr Popiah‘s machines dispense unusual offerings ($4 each) such as salted egg prawn popiah and chocolaty banana popiah. Have a crazy idea for a new flavour? Send in your suggestions to their website!
Ma² Shop, a cluster of vending machines by No Signboard Seafood, brings Tokyo-style vending convenience to the heartlands, dispensing groceries (e.g. detergent), first aid essentials (e.g. Panadol) and hot food (e.g. canned oden). The Asian Food Box machines are stocked with No Signboard’s signature chilli crab, served with spaghetti or rice ($11.90). There are now Ma² Shops across the island, from Jurong West to Tampines; the seventh opens mid-August at Mount Faber.
JOO CHIAT KIM CHOO
Joo Chiat Kim Choo (not to be confused with Kim Choo Kueh Chang) launched the first rice dumpling vending machine on 30 May at the Holland Avenue Ma2 Shop. Restocked at 8am every day, the machine maintains a temperature of about 65°C to keep the fresh dumplings warm. Currently two types of rice dumplings are offered—Nyonya and salted—and each comes in two sizes, regular and mini. Look out for more of these machines to be rolled out in the months to come.
The long queues that still form at VendCafés are no deterrent for the most ardent fans. With over 90 food and drink options, tempting offerings include paella, fried carrot cake, and Thai green curry chicken. Meals cost less than $6 each and are replaced twice daily. By the end of August, you’ll be able to find VendCafés in Sengkang, Ang Mo Kio, Lakeside, Rivervale and Pasir Ris.
POLAR PUFFS & CAKES
Polar Puffs & Cakes is in the early stages of launching vending machines that offer both hot puffs and chilled cakes. Their vending ovens maintain a temperature of 60 to 65°C, keeping pastries crisp, while vending chillers keep confections refrigerated. They have installed machines at Mediacorp and SMU School of Law, but these are accessible to internal staff and students only. polarpuffs-cakes.com