Most Singaporeans should know Old Chang Kee, for their hot crispy curry puffs with chicken chunk fillings and glorious golden-yellow deep fried snack on sticks. Talking about their chicken wing, they always have something against my diet plans.
Old Chang Kee has just launched Curry Times Tingkat at Alexandra Retail Mall (ARC, PSA Building), an all-day casual dining which is an offspring of Curry Times – and it has a self-service twist.
Outside the restaurant, you will see two “ATM” – self service kiosks where you are supposed to order your own dishes, pay through NETS, and collect your own food! You may be thinking, “No OCK auntie to help me order, how?!”
There are supposed 3 easy steps: Order, Pay and Collect. So I tried it on my own to check if it’s easier, faster and indeed smarter.
1 – I went to the kiosk and made my order. That was easy because I knew what I wanted, and the menu came with clear pictures and pricing.
2 – Get your NETs card ready and make payment (like those supermarkets self check-outs)
3 – Collect your receipt which has a waiting number.
4 – There were about 3-4 people in front of me, and woops, I got my Curry Chicken in 5 minutes at the collection point. That’s fast!
5 – All right. I got to pack this myself. Shouldn’t be too difficult. Plastic bag, cutlery, serviettes, all checked!
According to Old Chang Kee’s CEO Mr William Lim, this self-service concept helps to boost their space productivity, and reduce manpower cost through shared labour and adoption of new technology.
Let’s compare this concept to a non-self-service restaurant, where there is a lot of staff movement within the dining area. As staff go back and forth from each table to take orders, serve food, collect payment, return change/credit card, clear table and so on, this requires more space to be allocated at the dining area for the high traffic.
With the new self-ordering system, there is lesser movement which makes staff’s work easier and safer, and the restaurant layout can be planned more efficiently with more sitting capacity.
Old Chang Kee has launched this self-service system. And the question is: Will customers accept it?
He added that there are customers who go, ‘“Uh… why do I need to pack it myself?”, “I’m sure they will clear the table later…they have people to clear! (when it comes to clearing their own trays)”.
To encourage customers, Old Chang Kee is providing a $3 off when they pay using NETS flash card to make payment. That’s a huge discount considering the meals are less than $10 each.
Plus, there is additional savings for us customers as there is no service charge or tax imposed, and there will be reduced incorrect orders as we are the ones keying in our own orders. (I tried to make a ‘wrong’ order, don’t worry, can back-space and edit.)
This system reminds me of Hong Kong’s Octopus Card system where you can make your payment at most supermarkets, convenience stores and small eateries (like cha chaan tengs) with a card – no hassle with coins and notes, especially convenient for tourists.
I wonder when it would be possible when Singapore to move into such a system, where the EZ-link card becomes encompassing enough to be adopt by the SMEs, and when it comes to paying ‘smaller payments’, say like buying an OCK curry puff.
Imagine paying for your curry puff with a card instead of digging for coins (which can take forever). Certainly easier for both the customers and service staff, and more hygienic and safer with the non-handling of coins.
With staff being less involved at the cashier and manual transactions, they can keep up with their other daily operations such as maintenance of work area’s cleanliness and hygiene, maintenance of stock and records and have time to offer better service to the customers.
The long-term reduction in manpower cost is then invested in training programmes for existing staff to upgrade and learn new skills.
I also had a quick chat with Old Chang Kee’s chairman Mr Han Keen Juan who was really a jovial and friendly man, and asked if these machines would replace the aunties behind the counter one day in the future.
He said, “Never”, “Old Chang Kee is all about that human touch, about meeting customers face-to-face, and that can never be replaced.”