Insadong in Singapore? Fans of Korean culture would be familiar with Insadong, a traditional neighbourhood where street stalls, art galleries, restaurants, teahouses and cafes line the streets.
Imagine that right here. The Insadong Korea Town at Resort World Sentosa is probably Singapore’s largest Korean-style food place, a 6000 square feet concept which is somewhat between a cross of a restaurant and food court. I explain them further later.
Other than serving Korean food, we spotted some stalls setting up to sell Korean toys, accessories and souvenirs, attempting to re-create the street in Seoul.
It is still in its infancy stage, but we see the potential.
To cater to a large spectrum of diners especially tourists, Insadong Korea Town offers not only authentic Korean food, but Korean fusion – Korean Chinese, Korean Japanese and Korean Western inspired dishes.
Popular main dishes include Kimchi Pork Belly Stew ($12), Army Stew ($32) and Stir Fried Beef Bulgogi ($15), while kimchi pancake, seafood skewers and topokki are some of the available street food.
If you spot people at RWS holding on to bright yellow coloured cones shaped like the alphabet J, they come from here. The J-shaped corn snack called ‘Jipangyi’ is very popular in Insadong Korea itself, and is a corn snack injected with soft serve ice cream.
The Ordering System
Insadong Korea Town has an ordering system like no other in Singapore, but perhaps more common in other countries such as Korean and Japan.
You would notice 6 self-ordering kiosks (called the ‘expert’) located around the restaurant, of which 3 are near the entrance and cashiers. The kiosks included self-ordering menu, and LED display that showed current promotions.
So you basically order your food, pay by cash via the kiosk, and receive a slip which displays the dishes you ordered and a number. Then you move to the open kitchen area to collect your orders! If you need help, there is a waiter hovering around to provide assistance.
I had a little difficulty understanding the system initially, but got a hang out of it after a while. Reminded me of the ramen shop vending machines in Japan.
The next step in the F&B Industry?
The cost of implementation? Insadong Korea Town revealed that the ballpark figure was about $150k, quite a heavy initial cost.
The rationale is that such technologies can cut customer waiting time by 20-30%. Businesses can also update items, prices and promotions fast and easily, compared to traditional printed menus.
However, if each kiosk represents one service staff to take order, 6 kiosks would mean that 6 staff could be re-deployed more efficiently for other work purposes – very helpful especially in a labour-short F&B industry.
Insadong Korea Town has a capacity of over 300 diners. With such a huge space, the kiosks can also reduce possible incorrect delivery, for example service staff sending the wrong orders.
Is self-ordering the way to go in future days? Think self-checkout in a supermarket, but applied to a restaurant.
For Singapore’s F&B industry, almost every establishment is facing some kind of a problem with labour. It seems (fortunately or unfortunately), certain restaurants especially quick food service, using machine is the way to go.
Many people complained about Marche when they first started the card system. Few years down the road, we have seen a few copycats. The same goes with tablet ordering system. 2-3 years ago, customers were resistant. Now such technological gadgets are commonplace.
Many business leaders and ministers have spoken about this, such as labour chief Lim Swee Say, who has also been encouraging businesses to take up innovative solutions.
The warning signs are there – businesses that don’t adapt and use technology solutions, especially labour-saving devices, have to be prepared to close down as the world is changing fast and waits for no one.
Insadong happened to be one of early adopters. Yes, it is a big risk to take, especially when they occupy such a big space in a tourist-populated area. I can imagine people complaining about its ease of use.
But as diners eventually familiarise themselves with self-ordering technology, would other restaurants start using these kiosks 2 years later? How close to closing down do owners need to be before they consider alternatives to solve their productivity problems?
Instead of two steps behind, can businesses finally move two steps forward?
Insadong Korea Town
Resorts World Sentosa, 26 Sentosa, Gateway #01-30/31/32/33, Singapore 098138
(Near Trickeye Museum)
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 10pm Daily
Tel No: +65 6238 8221