Restaurants on level five of Singapore's Jewel Changi Airport hit hard by requirement to stay open till 3am

Several restaurants on level five at Jewel Changi Airport, including Burger & Lobster, from London, are not attracting late night diners in sufficient numbers. The restaurant is negotiating with Jewel Changi Airport in a bid to close earlier than the current 3am. — TODAY pic
Several restaurants on level five at Jewel Changi Airport, including Burger & Lobster, from London, are not attracting late night diners in sufficient numbers. The restaurant is negotiating with Jewel Changi Airport in a bid to close earlier than the current 3am. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, June 14 — One restaurant has resorted to creating a special “midnight high tea” menu, while some outlets have tried to close early despite the risk of being fined by Jewel Changi Airport Development.

Restaurants on level five of Jewel Changi Airport are required to remain open until 3am daily, but they are having issues meeting this condition because they have few or no customers after midnight.

The restaurants’ managers believe there are two reasons for this: What they have on their menus and their location on the topmost level — this means their patrons are either visitors to the Canopy Park, which opened on Monday, or people who would not mind going out of their way to visit restaurants in that part of Jewel.

The Canopy Park’s opening hours are 9am till 3am. From July 10, some attractions will close at 10pm, but others will continue to stay open till 3am.

A Jewel Changi Airport Development spokesperson told TODAY in a statement yesterday: “With the recent opening of the Canopy Park attractions, the operating hours of the leisure offerings, including the eight restaurants at the topmost level of Jewel, are aligned and open from 9am to 3am. This is testament of our commitment to strengthen the extended-hour offerings in Jewel. We will continue to review our operations and engage our tenants closely.”

The level five restaurant operators told TODAY they are not hopeful that the Canopy Park will bring in more late-night business for them. One, who declined to be named, said visitors to the Canopy Park were there specifically to visit the park, and another, who also requested anonymity, felt park visitors would not be inclined to visit the restaurants in the wee hours.

Desperate to attract more customers in the wee hours, Arteastiq, one of the eight restaurants on level five, tried to be creative by coming up with a new offering — but to no avail.

Branch manager Alvin Lim said: “We can only serve appetisers after midnight and we came up with the midnight high tea menu to resolve this problem. It is available from 10pm to 3am but there are still no customers despite this.”

He added: “We hardly see customers coming in after midnight and I have submitted feedback to higher management a week ago. I think we do not need to open the restaurant until 3am.”

He also observed that neighbouring tenants often close two hours before the stipulated time of 3am.

Staff interviewed at some restaurants on level five said they close before 3am. However, the staff declined to go on the record. Meanwhile, the restaurant managers told TODAY that they have received warning letters from Jewel’s management for closing early — one of them has received three.

A few restaurants have also begun negotiations with Jewel, in the hope of shortening the opening hours. One of them is Burger & Lobster whose spokesman said: “Opening hours are set by contract, but we are trying to negotiate with Jewel. Opening till 3am is a drain on the business because after 1am, there is nothing, there is nobody. At most, only one customer comes in every half an hour which, operational-wise, is not worth it.”

Manpower issues

Out of the seven eateries that responded to TODAY’s queries, six say the long opening hours are a problem. They cited manpower shortages and resource wastage as key issues.

Arteastiq’s Lim said: “Labour costs for working past midnight and transportation fees for my staff are very expensive.”

Kelly D’Cruz, the manager of modern Japanese restaurant Tanuki Raw, has had trouble hiring staff to work the late hours.

She said: “Few people want to work the night shift as it can be disruptive to their body clock. As a business we have to pay additional overtime as well as the transport costs which add up very quickly. One of the bigger concerns is the morale impact it has when working the night shift.”

The only restaurant that is doing well in the wee hours is Rumours Bar & Grill, which is the only outlet on the fifth level that is allowed to sell alcoholic drinks past midnight.

Olivia Walker, its manager, said: “Normally, half or more of the seats are filled up on weekday nights, even past midnight.”

TODAY understands that some restaurants such as Prive and Tiger Street Lab sell only non-alcoholic drinks past midnight because their liquor licences expire at midnight.

Food critic and consultant KF Seetoh raised issues about the opening hours at Jewel last month in a Facebook post, before the Canopy Park opened.

“I was there (at Jewel) same time today, pre-opening hours at 9.30am, same as three weeks back and the lines then were ridiculous. But it’s all but disappeared now. I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours, which is normal and I hope it continues. The decline is slow and real. I feel for the tenants, especially the 24/7 ones.”

Mixed response at basement two

The picture is more mixed for restaurants opening late in other parts of Jewel.

Checks on Jewel Changi Airport’s website indicate that of the 111 eateries, 44 are open for business past midnight.

Of these, 33 dining outlets, including well-known brands such as Old Chang Kee, Twelve Cupcakes, Burger King, Mr Bean and Stuff’d, are open 24/7.

Fast food chain KFC in basement two sometimes stays open beyond its midnight closing time because customers are still coming in, restaurant manager Hu Jia Li said. “This could be because the food is more affordable here (compared to the ones on the fifth level),” she added.

Although Jewel Changi Airport’s website states that Four Seasons Durians Restaurant — also in basement two — is open 24/7, a restaurant spokesperson clarified that it is open from 11am to 11pm from Sunday to Thursday. It extends its opening hours to 2am on Friday and Saturday to accommodate customers who want to stay later, the spokesperson added.

However, there are generally very few customers past midnight, and many of their neighbouring restaurants do not stay open 24/7 as well, the spokesperson said.

Several businesses on basement two told TODAY that few, if any, customers patronise their outlets past midnight. — TODAY