Banquet foodcourt chain faces cash woes

SINGAPORE - It used to be one of Singapore's largest halal foodcourt operator, but now Banquet runs only 14 eateries, down from the original 46 outlets across the island.

According to The Straits Times (ST), this is because it has run into cash-flow problems, and has been in the red for the past two years.

The foodcourt chain has also been unable to make payment to stall operators on time and this has caused some unhappiness among stallholders.

Managing director Alan Lee told ST that the company owes some 200 stallholders about $1 million.

Banquet runs foodcourts and cafes. While it engages tenants to run stalls most of the time, it also operates its own drink stalls and some cafes.

According to Mr Lee, 61, the bottom line has been hit by "an increase in rentals plus escalating wages and food costs".

Fishball noodles operator, Mr Lim Yong Xiong, 29, who operates a stall at Banquet's outlet at Clifford Centre, said the company owes him some $100,000. Apparently, he has not received payouts for last November as well as for May, June and July this year, said the report.

Another foodstall operator, Ms Angeline Ng, 38, who runs a nasi padang stall, also at the Clifford Centre outlet, said she had not received her payout for June sales and has put out a notice on her storefront saying she had no money to buy ingredients.

Mr Lee admitted that Banquet has not been prompt in making payments to stallholders, but he wants to assure them that the company is still very much in operation.

“Yes, the payment is slightly late but eventually we will pay all of them, down to the last cent,” he said.

He added that he aims to pay off all the money owed to stallholders by the year end.

Banquet collects the daily takings of its stallholders and retains 20 per cent of the monthly revenue as rent payment. The remaining 80 per cent is usually returned to stallholders in the next 14 days after the end of each month.

But as the company still faces financial difficulty, it is making payouts in two tranches - once mid-month and another time at month-end.

Mr Lee told the paper that based on his calculations and projections, it should reverse losses and make a $2 million profit by the year end.

However, to do this, Banquet needs to increase food prices to stay viable, reported ST.

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