We all know that eating is one of Singapore’s favorite past times – but how many of you know of the ways you can help someone in need, just by enjoying your food?
The idea of social enterprises is relatively new in Singapore, and even more so for those in the food and beverage (F&B) business. Social enterprises differ from charities, as they are profit-making businesses with sustainable operations. These enterprises employ marginalised people, such as the disabled or ex-convicts, to help ease them back into society. Some of them may also support social causes through other means, such as donating part of their profits to charities.
Given Singapore’s thriving F&B scene, setting up a social enterprise means facing fierce competition. Yet these eateries are clear in not taking advantage of their social missions to attract customers – what they want instead is for people to return for their food and service. As a result, some choose to play down the social aspect of their business as a result, letting their culinary creations be the star.
Are they worth the second visit? You be the judge – here is a round-up of social food enterprises in Singapore serving up food with more heart than just in their cooking.
Pay whatever amount you want for a buffet? Sounds unbelievable? Well – Annalakshmi offers a buffet of Indian vegetarian food for lunch and dinner and invites customers to ‘Eat What You Want, Give What You Feel’. Items on its buffet menu include varieties of Dosai, Oothappam, and Dhals, and drinks including juices and lassis.
In operation since 1986, Annalakshimi is largely staffed by volunteers and supports the cultural organization, Temple of Fine Arts, with its proceeds. They have a sister restaurant, Annalakshmi Janatha, in Amoy Street that caters only to the working crowd in the business district during lunch time.
Annalakshmi is located at #01-04, Central Square 20, Havelock Road, Singapore 059765. Please call 6339 9993 before going, as reservations are required. For more information see their website here.
Breakthrough café offers ex-convicts employment opportunities to help them integrate back into society. Run by a Christian-based aftercare association, the café allows reformed drug addicts who face difficulties in finding employment the ability to hone their skills.
This café serves up affordable yet delectable dim sum and homely dishes such as Claypot Curry Fishhead. Service here is impeccably friendly and yet they don’t have any service charge, making the dining experience here a joy.
Breakthrough Café is located at #01-02C People’s Park Centre, 101A Upper Cross St. Opening Hours: Monday – Friday : 7am to 5pm, Saturday: 7am to 3pm, Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays. For more information see their website here.
Bettr Barista Coffee Academy
Bettr Barista Coffee Academy has a vision to arm disadvantaged and underprivileged women with the skills and tools to make their lives better. The academy uses a holistic training approach that focuses on mental, emotional and physical development, and funds themselves through a range of coffee services and products.
Their professional barista training courses are also available to the general public, home baristas, industry professionals and aspiring café owners (as their name suggests, they also focus on lifting the overall coffee standards in Singapore by training better baristas and coffee professionals).
Although they do not have their own brick-and-mortar store, you can find them at Saybons at Aljunied. Better yet, they have the Better Brew Bar, an ‘experiential, interactive coffee bar’ that will be brought to you upon request.
Bettr Barista Coffee Academy is located at 37 Mactaggart Road, #07-03, Lirea Industrial Building (Tasty Plaza), Singapore 368083. Telephone: 6509 0113 For more information see their website here.
Dining in the Dark
Have you ever eaten in total darkness? Organised by the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH), this experience will have participants do just that while being served by blind and visually impaired staff. Initiated to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the visually impaired, this experience allows participants to gain some insight to how the visually impaired live. The organization also invites participants to make use of our other senses such as taste, touch and smell in the absence of sight. Prior registration is required to partake in this experience.
Dining in the Dark takes place at Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped at 47 Toa Payoh Rise, 298104. For more information or to make a reservation see here.
Even since its opening in 2007, the first branch of Eighteen Chefs at Eastpoint Mall, Simei, has always seen full houses during mealtimes from patrons ranging from students to families. The owner and Executive Chef, Benny Se Teo, founded the social enterprise that employs and trains ex-drug offenders. A former drug addict himself, Chef Se Teo turned his life around to be the first Singaporean trained at Jamie Oliver’s social enterprise restaurant Fifteen, and hopes to inspire youths-at-risk to take charge of their lives to find positive and alternative ways of livelihood.
On top of Chef Se Teo’s inspirational tale and determination, we also love that he is constantly seeking ways to improve and upgrade himself through his creations, from customised cheese baked pasta and rice to 64degrees eggs and 18degrees fried rice.
Eighteen Chefs is located at AMK Hub, 53 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 #04-02 Singapore 569933, Telephone: 6481 7625, Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 11.00am to 10.30pm, Friday, Saturday & Eve of Public Holiday: 11.00am to 1.00am; Bukit Panjang Plaza, 1 Jelebu Road #02-19 Singapore 677743, Telephone: 6767 0557, Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 11.00am to 10.30pm; Bugis Junction, Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 11.00am to 10.30pm, 200 Victoria Street, #04-06 (Next to Cinema), Singapore 188021, Telephone: 6734 9741; Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, Operating Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 11.30am to 10.30pm, Friday, Saturday & Eve of Public Holiday;11.30am to 1.00am, 8 Grange Road, #04-02 (Next to Box Office), Singapore 239695, Telephone: 6736 3800; JCube, Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11.00am to 10.30pm, 2 Jurong East Central 102-13, Singapore 609711, Telephone: 6334 3606; Serangoon NEX, Opening Hours:Monday to Sunday: 11.00am to 10.00pm, 23 Serangoon Central, #01-57, Singapore 556083, Telephone: 6634 4642; Simei Eastpoint, Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11.00am to 10.30pm, 3 Simei Street 6, #01-12, Singapore 528833, Telephone: 6789 2852; The Cathay, Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 11.00am to 10.30pm, No.2 Handy Road, #B1-19/20
Singapore 229233, Telephone: 6733 8089. For more information on locations see their website here
Food for Thought
No stranger to foodies, Food for Thought is one of the better known food establishments on this list. Some of their social efforts include helping to alleviate poverty, providing water to Africans, and sponsoring children through the overall development of their community’s access to water and basic needs.
Their (almost) all-day brunches and other fare has gained many fans. Check them out in their new branch at the Botanic Gardens for a getaway from the city!
Food for Thought it located at 8 Queen Street, 188535 (opposite Singapore Art Museum), Opening Hours
Tuesday – Friday : 10am – 9pm, Saturday : 9am – 9pm (Last orders at 8.30pm), Sunday : 9am – 6pm
(Last orders at 5.30pm), National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road #01-04/05, S178897, Telephone: +65 6338 9887, Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10am to 10pm (Last orders at 8.50pm) Sunday: 10am to 9pm (Last orders at 7.50pm) and Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road, Tanglin Gate, #B1-00, S259569, Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday: 8am to 9pm (Last orders at 8.30pm). For more information on locations see their website here.
Joan Bowen Café
Named after the founders’ daughter, Joan Bo Wen, this eatery is on a mission to be a unique arts themed café-cum-culinary centre, with a new and innovative approach for training and imparting essential life-long skills to young adults with special needs.
The café offers Western fare such as ribeye steak, pasta, focaccia sandwiches, and dessert specialties such as tiramisu and apple crumble. Coffee served is from a Nespresso machine and tea from Twinings.
Joan Bowen Café is located at 9 Jalan Wangi, Singapore 349354, Opening Hours: Monday: 11am – 4pm, Tuesday – Friday: 11am – 3pm, 6:30pm – 9:30pm, Saturday: 1pm – 9:30pm; and St. Andrew’s Village, which is open for private functions only. For more information see their website here.
Kerbside Gourmet is Singapore’s first gourmet food truck with a social vision. Run by Luan, a former communications practitioner for 20 years, the new start up operates on a ‘Buy-One-Give-One’ model, and aims to turn their profits to feed the less privileged in Singapore. The environmentally-friendly truck, nicknamed ‘Kerby’, rolls out soul food that focuses on retaining the nutrients of wholesome ingredients, injected with a healthy dose of self-grown herbs.
The menu currently only offers six items, but with dishes such as Sous-vide Duck Breast with Thyme and Orange segments, Cold Japanese Pasta tossed with Mentaiko, and Ratatouille with Home-Made sauce, we say it’s worth the visit. You can also check out the exhibits at National Museum before or after your meal.
Kerbside Gourmet is at the National Museum of Singapore, Level 2. 93 Stamford Road, 178897. For more information see their website here.
Kampung @ Simpang Bedok
Kampung @ Simpang Bedok is Singapore’s first privately-run hawker centre, run by Best of Asia. Officially launched last month this social enterprise aims to help struggling aged hawkers, aspiring new hawkers, and also select target groups including disadvantaged youths, low-income individuals, and new immigrants.
Besides their social mission, Kampung @ Simpang Bedok also wants to change people’s perceptions of hawker centres. The hawker centre offers wine and quality espressos in addition to the wide range of cuisines, and holds music performances and weekend flea markets. More importantly, they celebrate the true kampong spirit, bringing together people from all walks of life.
Kampung @ Simpang Bedok is at 348 Bedok Road, Bedok Market Place. Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7am – 11pm. For more information see their Facebook page here.
Fans of the satisfying spicy and creamy dish Laksa will be spoilt for choice here. Laksania not only offers the traditional Laksas with different spice blends that come from Penang, Kelantan and Sarawak, but also fusion dishes that turn old favorites such as burgers, pastas, laksania and baked rice into a new kind of laksa heaven.
What makes dining here even better is the heart that has gone into incorporating the employment of the less fortunate into its business model, nurturing and assimilating their unique abilities into their food preparation operations.
If you meet founder Mdm Sim Sin Sin at the East Coast branch, do say hi to her – she will be pleased to let you taste all her different laksa spice blends and tell you more about Laksania.
Laksania is at JEM, 50 Jurong Gateway Road #03-09 Singapore 608549 Tel: +65 6734 8908 and Bugis+ 201 Victoria Street, #04-04, Singapore 188067, Tel: 6636 9776 . For more information on locations see their website here.
Professor Brawn Café
Started in 2009, Professor Brawn Café was started by the parents and friends of a child with a learning disability – also the creator of character Professor Brawn, a superhero who is ‘smart, kind and strong’. The café gives opportunities for jobs to people with special needs, and also supports them through showcases of special talents. Their offerings of affordable and hearty fare such as Black Miso Cod, and Gourmet Sausage with Rosti, and Ice Cream Waffles will make you feel right at home with its warm ambience and service.
Professor Brawn Café is located at Professor Brawn Cafe @ Novena, #02-78/79 Novena Square, , 238 Thomson Road Singapore 307683, Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday:11.30am to 930pm Tel: 6253 4650, and Professor Brawn Cafe @ Boat Quay, 10 Circular Rd Singapore 049366, Opening Hours: 11am to 10pm Mon to Fri Tel: 6532 0607. For more information see their website here.
So what could be better than eating and doing good? Hmm….we’re scratching our heads trying to think!
Written by Tweedlingdum. Pictures courtesy of the establishments featured.