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Budget 2022: What the measures mean for an SME executive

SINGAPORE — For food-and-beverage (F&B) brand Creative Eateries, 2021 turned out to be the tougher year than 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Bernadette Giam (pictured), director of corporate affairs and human resources with Creative Eateries.

Ms Bernadette Giam (pictured), director of corporate affairs and human resources with Creative Eateries.

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  • F&B business Creative Eateries found it hard to get through 2021 after trying to stay afloat in 2020
  • Its human resources director said the prolonged Covid-19 restrictions hit revenue hard
  • She was thus relieved that the upcoming GST hike announced would be staggered over two years
  • This would help potential customers adjust to the increased cost of dining out
  • However, she felt that the relief measures for businesses are not aligned to the reality of the still-struggling F&B sector

SINGAPORE — For food-and-beverage (F&B) brand Creative Eateries, 2021 turned out to be the tougher year than 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2020, when the coronavirus outbreak struck and Singapore went into semi-lockdown or a “circuit breaker”, many F&B establishments suffered when strict Covid-19 rules restricted movement and activities, but Creative Eateries managed to stay afloat by pivoting to catering food for foreign worker dormitories.

This, coupled with the extensive support measures given to businesses that year, helped her firm tide over 2020. The Government rolled out an unprecedented four fiscal packages apart from the main national Budget to support workers and businesses in 2020.

However, in 2021, it became “unbearable” for Creative Eateries.

Mrs Bernadette Giam, 35, its director of corporate affairs and human resources said that this was in part due to the Covid-19 situation at foreign worker dormitories stabilising and there was no longer a reliance on the firm’s services.

“There were many measures that limited F&B and catering from doing business, primarily the safe management measures and the cap on seating, which was two persons for the better part of 2021,” Mrs Giam told TODAY. 

Creative Eateries runs F&B brands such as Japanese hotpot chain Suki-Ya, Thai restaurant Bangkok Jam and catering firm Shiok Kitchen Catering. 

Mrs Giam runs the company with her younger sister, and their father is the founder and business owner.

She was hoping that the Budget this year would offer stronger wage support for businesses, so that it may offset manpower costs.

She was also hoping that the Goods and Service Tax (GST) hike would be moderated so that customers will feel less of a pinch when dining out. 

Mrs Giam was thus relieved that the upcoming GST hike would be staggered over two years, rising from the current 7 per cent to 8 per cent with effect from Jan 1, 2023, and going up again to 9 per cent in 2024.

This would help potential customers adjust to the increased cost of dining out, she said. 

However, she was disappointed at the business support measures. These include a Small Business Recovery Grant, which offers small firms that have been most badly affected by the pandemic payouts of S$1,000 for each resident employee, capped at S$10,000 a firm. 

“The Budget seems to be poised for an economic recovery. However, I do think that the F&B sector will have significant challenges ahead.” 

“It has been very hard-hit and continues to see limitations on operating and seating capacity, for example.”

Despite the struggle, she said that Creative Eateries did not retrench any of its workers throughout the pandemic, though the upper management took a 15 to 30 per cent pay cut for “a good number of months” last year. 

Creative Eateries lost a “significant” amount of revenue last year, she added, despite support measures such as the Jobs Support Scheme, where the Government provided wage support to employers to help them retain Singapore employees.

The amount of subsidies given under the scheme, introduced in 2020, was reduced last year and eventually stopped for F&B businesses in December.

The Budget this year does serve as some relief to smaller firms, she said, but the relief ceiling of S$10,000 for the Small Business Recovery Grant may not be significant for firms with more than 100 employees such as hers.

“For firms that have several hundred employees, this is a much lower amount compared to previous forms of wage subsidies like the Job Support Scheme,” she added. 

In 2021, under the Jobs Support Scheme, eligible F&B businesses received 10 to 50 per cent wage support.

Along with the persistent drop in consumer demand, there have also been supply-side challenges such as increases in electricity and food costs.

“This is a bit of a black swan event, where many local retailers have gone bust,” Mrs Giam said. “I was really hoping to hear that there would be even greater intervention by the Government to offset these high overheads.” 


As part of a S$500 million Jobs and Business Support Package announced on Friday, there will be a Small Business Recovery Grant to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are most affected by Covid-19, such as those in F&B.

These firms will be notified by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) from June this year. 

To qualify for the grant, businesses must be "live" entities that are physically present in Singapore and were registered no later than Dec 31 last year.

They must also have an annual operating revenue of less than S$100 million, filed with Iras for the tax year of assessment 2021 by Dec 31 last year, or have fewer than 200 employees as of Dec 31 last year.

They must also be from sectors that have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 crisis, such as F&B, retail and tourism. 

It was also announced that the Jobs Growth Incentive, which was supposed to end in March, will be extended by six months to September this year. This provides companies with subsidies for the wages of newly hired Singapore workers.

However, this will only cover mature workers aged 40 and above who have not been employed for six months or more, persons with disabilities, and ex-offenders. 

Related topics

Budget 2022 profiles Budget 2022 F&B SME business Creative Eateries Covid-19 Job Support Scheme Jobs Growth Incentive

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