Want to compete in F&B? Grow some balls.


I’m not sure how many of you have heard about Fishing Ball’s Douglas Ng’s rant. Here’s what it is about in bullet points:

1.) Douglas didn’t get invited to bid for an outlet at FoodFare

2.) He didn’t get invited because his price exceeded FoodFare’s requirement

3.) He throws a fit because he can’t get that outlet

4.) He pins the blame on the government, on FoodFare and even on Minister Vivian Balakrishnan… accusing them of destroying the hawker culture in Singapore

He’s upset that FoodFare didn’t even try his tasty fishballs and flat out refused him an outlet.

You see: Douglas simply didn’t meet FoodFare’s requirements.

To meet FoodFare’s requirements, you need to meet a score. 40% of the score comes from the tendered rent. The other 60% will be awarded for quality, variety, selling price, operating hours, experience and concept.

If this was an exam, it means you failed.

Even if you failed by 1 point, you still failed – and it has nothing to do with the quality of your food. His fishballs could have been blended from abalone or boiled in liquid gold – it doesn’t matter, he failed on a mix of (too high a) price, operating hours, experience, concept and tender.

Now, why must Douglas have to, have to, have to have that outlet and by FoodFare? NTUC FoodFare is not your typical hawker center or foodcourt, they are charged with a mission of trying to keep prices as low as possible.

And then he goes on and lobbies KF Seetoh to cook up a storm about how the government is not doing enough to help the hawker culture, killing our local food etc…etc…

Our hawkers came from a line of resilient businessmen. Once upon a time there wasn’t even hawker centers to start with. People cooked on streets and made food to the best of their abilities. They perfected their art, they made themselves famous…they never bitched about how they were made a victim by all the world.

If Douglas and his fishballs were any good, he would be able to sell anywhere to anyone. There would be no need to launch a hissy fit and there would be no need to kick up an imaginary fuss about how local food is “dying”.

But if his motive is just to be a media whore, well, then he’s got it.




  1. Dear Tay, Leong and Tan,

    Perhaps you do not believe that our local food is dying because you still see them in existence.

    Let’s put aside that expensive fish ball and talk about our food culture.

    You see, the main issue is about privatising our hawker centres, which is in fact killing off the quality of our local food. Keep this in mind, quantity does not translate to quality. Quote you guys an example. Go to Lau Pa Sat and tell me that the food there today is still as good as it was 10 to 20 years ago. If you dare to tell me that it is then i rest my case and admit I have high expectations and standards.

    Douglas Ng might be wrong, sure. But the reality is something we cannot deny.

  2. And also, the only way to progress and solve problems is when we are willing to recognize problems instead of sweeping them under rhe carpet.

  3. Disclaimer: I happen to know Douglas, and by know I mean I have met him, his father, mother, sister, bro, although I haven’t had contact with them for quite a number of years. So potentially non-neutral views here.

    What I understood happened was:
    1)Douglas attended the briefing for the bidding for an outlet at FoodFare.
    2)He writes a post about the selection criteria pondering about the disparity between the fixed price for spaghetti and fishballs and ponders if he can make a profit, listing a number of costs he’ll have to cover. KF Seetoh was already involved at this time.
    3)Vivian Balakrishnana replies with a post talking mainly about rent and the measures put in place to control it.
    4)He goes ahead and bids.
    5)After that, nothing.
    6) So he hunts down the FoodFare people, who tells him that they have already shortlisted the candidates. He asks them about the selection criteria. Apparently the 60% of the criteria boiled down to one thing. How many years of experience.
    7)Douglas complains about the selection process.

    My views, based on my understanding of what happened.

    Vivian Balakrishnana’s reply did read like he had not grasped the crux of what Douglas was griping about. However, I got the impression that since ingredients and manpower(which he did acknowledge were the major cost drivers) were things he had no influence over, he focused on rent.

    Douglas takes pride in his culinary skills. He probably does believe, as you put it “he would be able to sell anywhere to anyone” What’s he’s railing about is a selection process that to him, translates to “you are not old enough” and “we won’t tell you that until you ask”.

  4. NTUC Foodfare has an agenda, which is to keep prices affordable.

    I respect Douglas values tradition and his cost of raw materials and labour is higher because he hand-makes every single fishball instead of purchasing mass produced factory ones. Thus,the quality is better.

    It is his business decision to make. He decided to go through the “Product Differentiation” route rather than a “Cost Leadership” route.

    If it’s purely based on Food Tasting as he wanted, then sure, anyone can cook with premium items. But do we want a Hawker Centre where every single item is a premium item?

    If my soccer team needs a goalkeeper, Ill make my selection based on the needs of my team. I don’t hold tryouts testing dribbling skills and how well someone can shoot a goal. If I judged on that criteria, I might get the best footballer like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. But can they serve my organisation as the Goalkeeper I need?

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