24 March 2006

After The Fad, It Always Turns Bad

I read the following article in the New Paper of 20 Mar 2006:

Just months ago, the situation was very different - there was a long queue of people waiting patiently to get their hands on the buns (and their teeth in them). The buns were literally selling like hot cakes. The half a dozen or so staff could not churn out enough buns to satisfy the demand:

But the situation lately was a stark contrast to those happy times. In fact, I had a premonition of sorts when I took this photo on 12 Feb 2006 at 6.10 pm at Parkway Parade:

It was a Sunday. And if a foodstall did not have a single customer during peak hours on a weekend, its days must be numbered. So I was not surprised to read the above article. There were only 2 staff manning the stall and they seemed to be busy... finding something to do. The ovens were empty and the familiar fragrant roti-cum-coffee smell in the air was absent. The only tidy queue in front of the counter was formed by the 4 guide poles (at left of photo) that were ironically used previously to ensure that the human queue was tidy. I knew immediately that this business was in trouble - the till was not ringing and the scene was chilling. The poster behind that said 'Oh Boy, The Taste' seemed to be saying 'Oh Boy, The Waste' instead. The Rotiboy did not have a chance to grow up into a Rotiman.

Rotiboy's website said that all outlets in Singapore would be closed 'due to unforeseen circumstances'. (Sure, sudden loss of customers due to no apparent reason is unforeseen.) The company further reassured customers that Rotiboy coffee buns were still available in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. So next time you have a craving for the coffee buns, you know where to get them.

The above story brought back memories of the bubble tea craze some years back. Bubble tea shops were then sprouting like mushrooms everywhere and there were queues at some of the more popular outlets. Then suddenly some months later, the inevitable happened - the bubble burst. But some outlets miraculously survived, like this one in Marine Parade Central:

Look, people are still queueing for the drinks. Does this shopowner know something we don't?

Is there a problem with the businesses or is there a problem with us Singaporeans? Why do we always form queues to try out something new (especially food and beverage) and then when we are tired of them, we simply ditch them like a boyfriend or girlfriend whom we can't stand? If it is not us Singaporeans, then why are Rotiboy outlets still surviving in other countries despite some outlets having opened longer than those in Singapore? Could this Singapore psyche have something to do with the high divorce rate in Singapore? Go figure.

Read 'Coffee buns: Headed for the Exit?' dated 1 Dec 05.


Lam Chun See said...

Same story for Turf City. When it first started, it was "people mountain people sea". Now ghost town. Tha's why I asked Chris to support local and stop going to JB.

Anonymous said...

The fad effect...

It is after the storm that the strongest one will survive. Take the bubble tea... in taiwan it has become a culture... rather than a fad (as in SGP).

They (bubble tea, rotiboy) never did put in the effort to convert from a fad to culture. Hey, Ah kuan Kaya toast is still around and doing well.

Chris said...

Victor, the logic is very simple. The word is "Re-invent". How do you expect the franchise to survive just by selling roti alone? The bosses should have diversifed long ago. The logic also applies in our workplace as well. Why did u think you're now in Hawaii 13? You got stale doing the some kinda of job year in year out. Lucky you made yourself relevant and reinvent yourself. But not rotiboy.

Chun See, I've just been to JB for that single trip and it was after a lapse of more than 10 years leh and much pestering from my colleague. I also want our local to earn our money, even though the service standard leaves much to be desired.

Victor said...

Anonymous, Ya Kun Kaya Toast didn't have to convert a fad into a culture. Having coffee/tea and kaya toast/half-boiled eggs for breakfast has long been a tradition of Singaporeans. (Ya Kun was established in 1944). All Ya Kun did was to move its business from an old shophouse into modern (air-con) shopping centres. Maybe Macdonald's is a better example if you are talking about something that has turned from a fad into a culture.

Chun See, talking about supporting our own local products/businesses, a lot of local women have trouble looking for the right husband. So why didn't you support them? Maybe you should have accepted that coffee offer from your elderly Ford Motors' supervisor more than 3 decades ago, haha.

evan said...

actually, my view is that singaporeans are pretty shallow. they'll follow the trend like nobody's business. bubble tea, breadtalk, gao lak etc. some bubble tea stalls still survive, and there's another one called sweettalk where there's still pretty long queue now. but normally if i wanna hv bubble tea, i'll go for the pearly soy milk at mr. bean or jollibean instead. its healthier.

aiya those bunch of ignorant singaporeans, i think they shd go out n see the world if they can. all become like frog in a well oredi.

hartini said...

From my memory: First was the Japanese cheesecake at the basement of Raffles City and somewhere along Orchard Rd - people were queing up for hours! I'm serious! Fortunately you can still find these cheesecakes today. Then it was Saint Cinnamon buns - same story but cannot find the stores anymore. Then of course the bubble tea episode and now Roti Boy... I wonder what's next.

Victor said...

Ya, my wife was one of those who queued for the cheesecakes and the coffee buns too. Should have interviewed her and asked her why she grew tired of those food.