For the past three days, a dollop of ‘Kindness On The Go’ has been on the lunch menu for the office crowds at Raffles Place and Buona Vista.
With every gourmet burger or coffee purchased at the Singapore Kindness Movement’s latest pop-up Food Truck, a portion of proceeds would go towards giving migrant workers here a taste of home over the coming Lunar New Year, when they would be apart from their families.
Spinning off from the first Kindness Cafe held in 2014, the premise this year was similar, as we looked to celebrate good service as a two-way street. Patrons who were extra friendly and polite to the servers could enjoy small discounts on their meals, in addition to paying it forward towards a warm and comforting meal for the foreign workers over the festive period.
As we took turns to man the counter and interact with both gungho customers and curious onlookers, I found myself seeing frontline service staff in a whole new light.
Think it’s easy to just smile and serve up a warm meal? Think again! Here are five things I learnt in a day of F&B work.
1. F&B is hard work
It doesn’t take much more than a short stint to understand why many people shun jobs in the service industry.
It was far from easy to catch the attention of people whizzing past, especially if their lunch plans had already been decided. At the end of three hours on the first day, my cheeks were sore from smiling, my throat hurt and my legs were screaming to be rested. I had newfound respect for our F&B workers who not only stand for long hours every day, but do their best to serve with a smile.
While I had the luxury of roaming around the vicinity of the event, the kitchen guys were confined to the back of the food truck, sandwiched between the pot of hot oil and the countertop where burgers were prepared. Tough work, indeed!
2. The good of going social
Combining business with social causes, it’s no wonder that big-thinking, good-doing social enterprises are all the rage these days. With a business model that advocates Buy-a-Meal Give-a-Meal, we found Kerbside Gourmet to be exactly the right partner for Kindness On The Go.
Since starting up in 2013, Kerbside Gourmet’s founder Luan has made it her mission to drive social change through the mobile food truck. So when she heard about our initiative, she saw it as a meaningful way to brighten up the festive season for the migrant workers.
Waiting to enter university, 20-year-old Rebecca Tan signed up to be a volunteer at Kindness On The Go. Other than serving coffee at the food truck, the experience got her thinking further on what kindness really means to her. She said: “I find this meaningful as it highlights the fact that kindness isn’t merely being courteous, saying please and thank you. But also that an effort to help people who are less fortunate is warranted, and it can start from an appreciation of both their efforts and their circumstances.”
3. People do mind their P’s and Q’s
Some customers happily exclaimed that they have always been courteous to service staff and that it was nothing new for them, while others were giggly about the novel little ‘exercise’ when specifically told that they could enjoy a discount if they placed their orders with the appropriate P’s and Q’s. In either case, the friendly exchanges brought joy and laughter and elevated the mood of our service staff even under the hot sun.
Rajev, a 27-year-old consultant, was spotted in line. He said: “A discount is a good reminder and incentive, but the words should really come naturally.”
4. People care more for good causes than you may expect
Even though the menu was limited to one food item and a drink, many people did not hesitate to give to the cause by buying a coffee or simply making a donation.
Sometimes, it takes a little reminder, or in this case an eye-catching food truck, to remind people to take action for the disadvantaged or marginalised folks that somewhere deep down, they do care about.
SKM’s Michelle Tay, who led the event, said: “Besides customers, there were a few who just dropped in donations. I remember one saying, “Sorry, in a rush”, then I saw him drop in a $50 note and off he went.”
5. No one cause is more important than the other
Some people asked us why proceeds would be used to treat migrant workers, and why we weren’t doing so for local workers and other local needy instead.
I actually appreciate those who asked me point-blank, because it gave me an opportunity to say: yes, there are many other needs and marginalized groups out there. And much of what we do is to inspire, encourage and support groups who are already helping or want to help.
So yes, if there is a need to be met, go do something about it. And tell us your story, because others might find it inspiring too.
The Kindness On the Go initiative may have ended, but that’s not to say that its calling ends with it. With every smile we go on to share with a server and bus captain we encounter, or each kind word we trade with the migrant workers we meet, its effect lives on – along with all the other small, but powerful, acts of kindness we see around us.
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