[싱가포르 TODAY뉴스] 늘어나는 한국 식당과 요식업 트렌드의 변화

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Korean Restaurants

ManNa on Telok Ayer Street is possibly the oldest existing Korean restaurant in Singapore. It opened in November 1999. Source: ManNa

 

New Korean restaurants

outnumbering those shutting down

 

SINGAPORE — When Mr Lee Hyun-kyung came to Singapore in 1997 as head of his company’s South-east Asian business, there were only about 20 Korean restaurants here.

“All of them were the usual Korean restaurants selling barbecued meat and daily dishes,” Mr Lee said.

All of this changed, though, after the Korean drama “Jewel in the Palace” was aired in Singapore in 2005.

“The drama really erupted a volcano of Singaporeans’ interest in Korean food and culture. The rising demand led me to open Jang Shou Korean Charcoal BBQ in 2006 in Esplanade Mall,” said Mr Lee, who is also the chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (KORCHAM).

According to Mr Lee, there are now over 200 Korean restaurants, cafes and other eateries, and this number excludes hawker stalls and food court stalls. Most of these are restaurants serving BBQ, samgyetang (chicken soup with ginseng) or daily dishes. However, Korean-style fried chicken outlets and cafes selling shaved ice desserts with red beans, strawberries or coffee are also popping up in malls all around Singapore.

This phenomenon is a boon for people who love Korean food. “There weren’t many Korean restaurants years ago, so we had to travel far to go to one,” said office worker Ms Han Wen Lin. “I’m glad there are more Korean eateries now such as BBQ buffets, Korean Chinese restaurants, fried chicken places and dessert cafes.”

In addition to the popularity of Korean culture, South Korea’s flagging economy has also prompted a number of Koreans to open eateries here.

“Many Koreans are seeing more potential in running a restaurant in Singapore than in Korea,” said Mr Tim Park, chief executive of Yellowsing, which manages a website and mobile app that lists Korean restaurants here.

And now, even locals are getting into the act. “Years back, it was mostly former (Korean) employees of Korean conglomerates opening restaurants after deciding not to return home, but recently, many Singaporeans are investing in franchises of reputable South Korean food and beverage businesses,” said Mr Park.

One such example is Bornga, a chain of restaurants that offers barbecued meat and other Korean delicacies. The first Bornga outlet in Singapore opened in October 2012 in Star Vista Mall. It was so popular that the franchisee, Mr Rodney Tang, opened two more outlets.

“We expect to open a few more outlets in Singapore — one in Sentosa and possibly one more in the east,” said Mr Lee Yong-hyuk, head of the overseas business team at Bornga headquarters.

While the number of Korean restaurants has increased, that also means more competition, and some restaurants are struggling, as a result.

Ssikkek, which started the Korean BBQ buffet boom on Amoy Street, has been seeing falling revenue and profits.

“We didn’t do well last year, and we expect it to be worse this year,” said the manager of the Ssikkek outlet in Tanjong Pagar.

“It is hard for small-sized restaurants to survive unless they specialise in certain items and really dedicate themselves to offering high-quality Korean cuisine,” said Mr Lee of Jang Shou Korean Charcoal BBQ. Even Mr Lee’s own restaurant, despite being relatively big and popular, was shuttered last year.

Tightened visa processes make it hard to hire staff as well. According to Mr Yoon Duck-chang, whose company supplies food products to most Korean restaurants here, many began to struggle after the number of Korean eateries went into the triple digits, and quite a few closed shop as a result.

However, for every eatery that shuts down each month, about three new ones open, said Mr Park of Yellowsing.

The proliferation of Korean restaurants means foodies here are spoilt for choice. But a common complaint is that the prices here are much higher than in Korea. For example, the food in Bornga is around 30 per cent higher compared to Seoul’s Bornga.

“I like some of the Korean restaurants here, but they are much more expensive than food of the same quality back home,” said Ms Mun Chi-hye, a 35-year-old Korean homemaker who has lived in Singapore for four years.

“We don’t go as much as we want to because they’re too expensive. It would be nice if there were more good, affordable Korean restaurants.”

 

5 authentic Korean restaurants to try in Singapore:

1. Seoul Restaurant (1 Cuscaden Road #03-02 The Regent Hotel, Singapore 249715)

2. Hyangtogol (165 Tanjong Pagar Road, Level 2 Amara Hotel, Singapore 088539)

3. Chang (71 Loewen Road #01-01 Singapore 248847)

4. Auntie Kim (460 Alexandra Road #02-21 ARC, Singapore 119963)

5. Ju Shin Jung (11 Unity Street #01-30 Robertson Walk, Singapore 237995)

 

Article written by : KIM SO-HYUN / 김소현 기자 (kimsohyun@mediacorp.com.sg)

기사 발췌 : TODAY – “Korean Restaurants Boom in Singapore”