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.