Singapore's F&B industry today is nothing like what it was 10 years ago - or, for that matter, just last year.
What does 2019 have in store for Singapore's F&B industry? We spoke to some of Singapore's top chefs and restaurateurs about what they're planning to bring to the table.
The "authentic" experience
Wolfgang's Steakhouse CEO Peter Zweiner is something of an authority on - you guessed it - steak. Since the first Wolfgang's Steakhouse opened in New York City in 2004, the brand has expanded internationally, with one of its freshest locations along Singapore's Robertson Quay.
"We are an authentic New York steakhouse, and we want to keep this identity consistent," Peter comments. And this identity he speaks of has endured not just through time, but also throughout every restaurant.
You know you're in a Wolfgang's Steakhouse when you're in one. For one, the brand is synonymous with their signature dry-aged USDA Prime Black Angus Beef; plus, key members of staff from each location around the world are trained at their flagship NYC restaurant to maintain a consistent standard of service.
The classics may be a steady anchor for this steakhouse, but Peter is also showing the world that he can go beyond and present culturally relevant concepts unique to each restaurant.
In this interpretation of the authentic experience, you can tuck into locally influenced dishes like the Black Pepper Beef Rice in the Singapore outpost, Beef Sundubu in Seoul or the Loco Moco in Hawaii.
For some other chefs, presenting an authentic experience means understanding not just a dish itself, but what lies at the very heart of it.
At The Capitol Kempinski Hotel's restaurant, 15 Stamford, you're more likely to describe dishes like their Chargrilled Bak Kut Teh Pork Chop as "avant-garde" rather than "traditional", but that in no way takes away from their authenticity. In reinventing his favourite Asian dishes, Chef Alvin Leung pays homage to them in a way that allows a new-found appreciation for Singapore's rich culinary history.
Single item menus
In a city flooded with dining options, it seems counter-intuitive to offer quite the opposite: no options. But it's true: small menus are the next big thing.
Single item concepts, featuring menus centred around a single ingredient, have been strong new entrants in Singapore's F&B scene.
In fact, perhaps this idea works precisely because it tunes out the overload of choice, and instead, says to customers, "Here you go, we made this for you."
It comes as no coincidence that most of these F&B spots choose to plant themselves in the CBD, where ease of choice (or, should we say, the lack thereof) makes for a more effortless lunch hour for office workers.
Amongst these single item menu concepts, there's Scrambled, a cafe by ex-Michelin starred restaurant chefs with a unique focus on scrambled egg burgers, as well as seafood shack Chunky Lobsters that offers original, cheesy or Connecticut-style lobster rolls, to name a few.
Granted, niche menus have long been a thing - you could say cite any fast food chain or even your humble hawker stall as an example. But what's different about this new wave of players are the additional restaurant-standard aspects they bring to the dining table, from pedigreed chefs to premium quality ingredients.
Fusion restaurants have long been well-loved in the F&B scene, with chefs combining their backgrounds in various cuisines and techniques.
But when you combine the chefs themselves? They create some culinary magic greater than the sum of its parts. With cuisines are no longer linear or confined, it's precisely the vastly different styles and ideas of each chef that allow them to create something even more elevated and appealing to diners.
As such, more chefs are joining forces in the kitchen, collaborating to create special "four-hands" menus. Park Bench Deli, for one, is no stranger to this concept. This gourmet sandwich spot hosts monthly PBD Guest Chef series, where chefs from all around Singapore are invited to create their rendition of a kickass sandwich. Think a luxurious Beef and Marrow sandwich by Burnt Ends' Chef Jake Kellie, to fund Young Jack Sliders consisting of young jackfruit in deep fried mantou by HRVST's Chef Addis Tan and Dylan Chong.
And some restaurants are even taking this movement globally - in November 2018, Spanish restaurant Esquina hosted Head Chef Juanjo Carrillo of London's one Michelin-starred tapas bar Barrafina. The two-night only event saw the two chefs coming together to create a stunning 8-course menu exploring the best of Spanish cuisine.
While B2C food technology, from food delivery services to front-of-house digitisation, has been gaining steam since its inception into the market years ago, things are gradually catching up on the B2B front.
While back-of-house operations such as ordering supplies have traditionally been a largely manual affair, technology-empowered processes are bringing with them a long-awaited overhaul.
Technology - with traceability and interconnectivity at its very essence - will allow a shift towards not just greater convenience for restaurants, suppliers and procurers, but also transparency and sustainability that can be passed on to increasingly discerning consumers.