Small businesses the ‘unsung heroes’ behind night race experience

Small businesses the ‘unsung heroes’ behind  night race experience
Ms Daphane Loke, chef and managing director of Saybons. Photo: Esther Leong
Published: 4:00 AM, September 14, 2017

SINGAPORE — To feed the patrons at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix (GP), local eatery Saybons has to prepare 600 eggs and 150kg of cheese, among other ingredients. In catering for the annual event, the company deploys one-third of its staff and sells up to 3,000 crepes over the three-day event.

Three months before the F1 night race, the eatery is already busy preparing for the event. The artwork for the booth, menu prices and staff schedules all have to be planned in advance.

As for the food itself, the company’s kitchen team starts preparing it as early as four days before the event.

“It is a big logistical project. On days of the F1 race, our operations team usually finishes up at 3am every day,” said Ms Daphane Loke, chef and managing director of Saybons.

This is the company’s sixth year participating in the event. Saybons usually takes up one stall at The Padang venue, selling savoury crepes with fillings such as ham, chicken, mushroom, smoked salmon and a vegetarian option. The crepes are sold at S$10 each while beers are S$12 each.

Ms Loke is among the underbelly of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating to ensure that the annual F1 event in Singapore runs well. From the race lighting systems to food caterers, the event — which this year runs from Friday to Sunday — would not be a success without these “unsung heroes”.

For JR Foods, the official caterer for the Singapore GP since 2013, the night race is one of the company’s biggest catering events. The company supplies 3,500 meals daily, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper, to the staff, volunteers and contractors, shared JR Foods’ chief operating officer Tony Chng.

Since 2008, when the F1 first landed in Singapore, ice supplier Tuck Lee Ice has ensured that food vendors at the F1 event do not run out of ice. The first few years were logistically very challenging, admitted the company’s general manager Jeremy Hauw.

“Our operations team had to work throughout the night to make sure that all our products were well distributed. It wasn’t easy as they were not familiar with the road closures and areas of the track. It took time to adapt and solve the issues. At the end, it was all worth it,” said Mr Hauw.

In its 10th year, the Singapore GP has given local SMEs the opportunity to take on large-scale projects, build confidence and gain international recognition, according to the companies that spoke to TODAY.

Mr Richard Tan, managing director of Arina International, a company that installs and dismantles the F1 race lighting system, said their involvement in the Singapore GP has brought increased revenue and placed the company on the world map.

Agreeing, Ms Loke noted that Saybons’ participation in F1 has given her the confidence to support large international events with quality and speed despite the firm’s boutique set-up.

In spite of the note of uncertainty as negotiations over the renewal of the Singapore GP contract continue, the companies said the experience has given them the confidence to pitch for other big events such as music festivals and other opportunities.

The F1 experience “has been an important milestone for Singapore, and has brought tremendous prestige and recognition as a sports tourist destination”, said Mr Chng.