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What is a Hawker centre?

Learn about the history of the hawker centre, how to start one, and what types of food you can typically find at one.

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A hawker centre is an open-air center where various stalls serve cooked food. Learn about the history of the hawker centre, how to start one, and what types of food you can typically find at one.

What is a hawker centre?

A hawker centre is an open-air food center where various food stalls cook and serve food on-site. They are outdoor, open-air structures where a variety of different businesses have a “stall” in which they cool and sell different foods. 

A hawker centre usually has an ample amount of seating in a cafeteria style.

What is the history of hawker centres?

The term “hawker” refers to a person who informally sells something in public. Hawker centres began in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. In the early 1800s, people who sold food on the streets in Singapore became known as “street peddling hawkers.” Because it was an affordable, low-cost way to start a food business, many unemployed people started street hawking after World War II, which created more demand for cheap and affordable foods. But, as more street hawkers sold on the streets, it created a poor hygienic condition that lead to a public health crisis as diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and malaria, spread throughout the city.

As a result, the government started a program to construct centers where stalls could be built for the cooking and selling of their foods. To this day, hawker centres are usually managed by a government agency to maintain the facilities. Many hawker centres are located in or near residential districts or housing complexes to serve cheap or affordable food to people living nearby.

What is typically on the menu at a hawker centre?

The choices are quite endless at a typical hawker centre as there are usually many different types of food options at each stall. 

Some typical items you will find on the menus at a hawker centre include, but are not limited to: cakes and pastries, noodles, barbeque, seafood, and chicken wings. 

From different selections of cooked meats and seafood to grilled vegetables and fresh coconut water, there is usually a wide range of options at a typical hawker centre.

How do you start at a hawker centre?

Generally, a hawker centre is managed by a government agency, so depending on your country or location; you might have to reach out to your public health department to start a hawker centre. But, a hawker centre is quite similar to a mobile food pod or outdoor farmer’s market. The best first step you can take to start a hawker centre or similar entity is to reach out to your local community to build community support. 

If you simply want to sell at a hawker centre or similar outdoor food center, you can usually apply for a stall, or apply to be a vendor. This can be as simple as filling out an application online and obtaining any required permits and licenses, though some organizations may ask you to provide a business plan and financial projections.

How much does it cost to start a stall at a hawker centre?

The cost for become a vendor or stall owner at a hawker centre or food court may vary depending on the size of your business and the food you offer. But, in general, the start-up costs will be lower than starting a food truck or full restaurant business.

A typical food center might charge a stall fee as low as $15 per square foot, or as high as $200 per square foot. The monthly rent will depend on the hawker centre or food court you sell in as some may charge a flat fee, whereas others may take a percentage of your monthly sales.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.