Mice industry in S'pore gets lift from Restaurant Asia 2021 that is expected to draw 1,000 visitors a day

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s economic recovery has taken another big step forward with the start of Restaurant Asia 2021 – the largest meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) event held here to date since Covid-19 curbs were eased – on Thursday (Nov 18).

The three-day food and beverage (F&B) symposium and trade show is slated to draw 1,000 people a day.

The event joins two others this week – Milken Institute Asia Summit and Bloomberg New Economy Forum – among pilot events in a scheme that allows large business gatherings with fully vaccinated attendees who have been tested for Covid-19.

Around 300 international business and government leaders attended the ongoing Bloomberg forum on Wednesday while the Milken summit, which ended on Tuesday, saw networking zones of up to 200 people.

Unlike the other two events, however, no pre-event testing is required for Restaurant Asia 2021.

The latter, which returns after an almost two-year hiatus, will run till Saturday. Enhanced safety measures include pre-registration of all participants, and limits on the time they can spend in one of five zones.

Around 500 participants are allowed for each of the morning and afternoon sessions, and the event space is disinfected between sessions.

At the opening ceremony, Mr Andrew Kwan, president of Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS), called for an increase of dining capacity to eight people, to help the battered F&B industry get back on its feet.

“I must make this one respectful request, that it is perhaps timely to tap not on the brakes, but the accelerator, to increase the momentum of recovery with eight people dining for all who are vaccinated and who are medically excused,” he said.

“RAS and our members will pledge, as an industry, to do our part to screen and to serve our patrons safely and responsibly.”

Currently, the group size limit for dining-in at F&B outlets is two fully-vaccinated people, or five fully-inoculated persons from the same household.

With F&B in recovery mode, the event’s guest-of-honour and Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Gan Kim Yong, announced the launch of a guidebook for entrepreneurs.

Safe distancing ambassadors at the Restaurant Asia, Café Asia, Sweets & Bakes Asia trade show on Nov 18, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

“Each year, we see one in five F&B outlets being replaced, and one in two F&B businesses do not make it past the four-year mark, even as more entrants enter the sector,” he said, noting that F&B is a “challenging” sector.

“It is thus imperative for new entrepreneurs to plan carefully before starting on your F&B journey,” he added.

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Called “Turning Passion into Profits”, the book by RAS and Enterprise Singapore has key elements for long-term success, tips on menu engineering and financial management, and advice from seasoned operators. A copy can be downloaded from the RAS and Enterprise Singapore websites.

Restaurant Asia, which is co-organised with the International Coffee & Tea Asia symposium, will see 113 exhibitors and brands from 12 countries showcasing machinery, equipment and ingredients.

An usher holding a sign indicating the time left before visitors change zones at the Restaurant Asia, Café Asia, Sweets & Bakes Asia trade show. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The organiser, Conference & Exhibition Management Services (Cems), is also expecting to facilitate around 3,000 to 5,000 exhibitors, buyers and visitors digitally over the course of the event.

Over the coming weeks, Cems will host other large-scale Mice events, namely Architecture & Building Services 2021 and the Singapore International Jewellery Expo 2021.

Mr Edward Liu, managing director of Cems, told The Straits Times that it is expecting similar, if not higher numbers for the upcoming events.

“In normal years, our shows would have been four to five times bigger and we would have had over 200 exhibitors, and we could even reach five to 10,000 trade visitors,” he said.

“With Restaurant Asia 2021, we are testing the limits of how we can manage this with the safe management protocols in place… Singapore has always been the hub for the Mice industry in this part of the world, so any baby steps towards the total revival would be good for the Singapore economy,” he added.

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