I asked my colleague to buy some char-siew/ roast pork rice for my lunch. On opening the styrofoam food container, I was disappointed to find that for $3, they have only apportioned about 6 thin slices of char-siew and another 5-6 slices (cut like fat french fries) of roast pork. No complimentary pieces of sliced cucumbers or tomatoes. I really wish I have my camera to show how measly the portions were. My colleague also ate the same thing at lunch and his plate was equally mean. Apparently the stall has just started operations and it is another franchise of the famous Tiong Bahru Roasted Pig Specialist. Now, I am a fan of Tiong Bahru's suckling pig, and I am happy that they are expanding their business. But I remember that the original stall at Tiong Bahru market were more generous.
This typifies the Singaporean food scene. What happens when an outlet becomes successful? It starts to think that it has what it takes to make it really BIG. The fastest way to grow, it seems, is to franchise their business. To open new branches would take too much work, time and money. Franchising is seen as a way to let others take risk and invest their money in the business. We have seen the franchising of Katong Laksa (thick rice noodles in thick, spicy gravy), Tiong Bahru porridge, Zhao Ann Grass Jelly, Ya Kun Kaya Toast, and now roast pork. Typically the recipe remains a top secret and the franchisees have to buy the final product, e.g. the laksa gravy or the porridge base. They typically pay a percentage of their sales to the franchisor, which means they have to keep their expenses down to earn profits, which they do by cutting corners, like watering down the gravy, substitutiting of cheaper ingredients or simply giving the customer less. There are usually no monitoring of food quality or consistency of each outlet. Franchisors seem to be just as greedy, there must be about 50 Katong Laksas in this tiny city alone. In the long run, the brand is prostituted until it loses its allure. End of brand, end of story.