Visiting Necessary Provisions was not part of our agenda on the Sunday morning. We have wanted to check out the breakfast scene at Carpenter & Cook but unfortunately the cafe was undergoing renovations. Apologetically, the kind lady at the cafe pointed to another cafe that was just 5 – 10 minutes’ drive away at Eng Kong Terrace, Bukit Timah.
Thankfully with the GPS, we managed to work our way around the neighbourhood.
Finding the entrance to the cafe wasn’t easy; we would have missed it if not for the kids and the vintage toy car.
It was hard to hide the disappointment from our faces when we saw the menu. This cafe is essentially a coffee joint, their breakfast choices were pathetic. There was only panini, toast and sandwiches, you can forget about egg benedict, egg florentine, pancakes and bacons etc. Surprisingly, they attracted quite a decent expatriate crowd. We reasoned that the coffee must be pretty good.
Despite having a number of service staffs around, we were expected to make our orders at the counter. The cashier lady shared with us that the cafe is currently two months old and they serve a kick ass cold latte.
There were also muffins, cakes, breads and other munchies up for grabs.
Here’s the Cold Latte ($6.50) that I was talking about. It was served in the form of frozen coffee cubes with cold milk on the side. Simply pour the milk over and you have your latte. We figured that to optimise the flavour of the latte, you only pour the milk when you want a sip. I agree that the latte was outstanding.
The Warm Latte ($6.50) was equally good but not as fun.
They are serious about their beans, a small space was dedicated to house and showcase their coffee equipment.
Our first breakfast entrée Rosemary Chicken with Watercress and Parmigiano ($9.00) failed to impress in terms of presentation and tasted really ordinary.
My Banana Nutella Panini ($5) cannot be served plainer. Even MacDonald’s Sausage McMuffin looks more enticing.
It’s just nutella and bananas. I can seriously make this myself.
That’s Toast with Cashew Butter and Jams ($4) for you.
Well, there was a Savoury Pancake ($6) that was not included in the menu. The main ingredients are dry shrimps, prawns and long bean. My Korean friend chuckled that the appearance resembles that of a typical Korean fried pancakes.
Coffee is an essential component of a cafe but I am not sure if it is enough to keep it afloat. Singaporeans I know loves late weekend brunch with popular breakfast items such as American Bacon & Sausage Breakfast Set, Egg Benedict etc. They are unlikely to patronize a cafe just because they serve awesome coffee.
No doubt the cafe is popular with expatriates in the area but why restrict your market share? Wouldn’t it be great to capture a piece of the local crowd too? The weekend breakfast and brunch scene is getting big in Singapore. As much as Singaporeans love their coffee, we expect to fill our growling stomach with delectable all day breakfast entrees too. The chefs and kitchen staffs should undergo training to introduce more enticing breakfast items to spruce up the menu.
On the cafe’s service policy, I was perplexed by the cafe’s service policy to get customers to order at the counter when there were a few service staffs around. In fact, we were even supposed to help ourselves to ice water. If the cafe’s objective was to free up their service staff from the ordering and ice water replenishment process, personalized customer interactions should have been made. The service staffs were basically there to just serve the paid drinks, entrée and hover around.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not blaming the service staffs, they seem to be still students at our tertiary institutions working for some extra cash. Probably because they are temporary staffs, the café management may be reluctant to invest time and effort to train them up for better service. No doubt students are a cheap and convenient source of labour, they should be there to complement the full time service staff instead of running the grounds on their own.
Could the lack of decent profit margin be deterring the café from hiring professional full time service staff? There may be a chicken and egg issue here. Student workers are cheap and can be dismissed more easily compared to full time staff, but cheaper manpower won’t result in better and faster service for customers! Perhaps getting a full time service staff with prior experience to lead and organize the service floor can gradually enhance the café’s customer experience and help to bring in more crowd and grow regular customers.
Customers at Han’s faced similar not-to-par service a few years ago e.g. a staff refused to help a customer who had her hands full with a baby to carry the tray to the table, saying customers had to serve themselves as Han’s was a self-service restaurant. Staff’s lack of customer service and low morale was affecting their customers.
Good thing Han’s invested in staff training to raise service standards, and in 3 years, customers were so impressed that the ratio of compliments to complaints jumped by more than 5 times! Staff had easier jobs when back and front-end processes were centralized to reduce time spent on co-ordinating operations, so they could make smarter use of their time to create new dishes. Han’s profits also jumped to more than 300%, of which 15% were given back to staff as bonuses and benefits.
Just like Han’s with a better menu and customer experience, I am sure Necessary Provisions will be able to increase its productivity and create a more pleasant experience for customers.
Necessary Provisions is an interesting cafe concept and I really adore the coffee. I sincerely hope that the cafe management will take the above recommendations because I would really love to swing by again for their revamped breakfast menu. If you will like to check out the cafe for its coffee, here’s the full information:
Address: 21 Eng Kong Terrace Singapore 598993
Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm (Tues – Thurs), 10am – 12am (Fri), 9am – 12am (Sat) & 9am – 6pm (Sun)
Tel: 9231 7920
Email: [email protected]
Fan Page: facebook.com/necessaryprovisions
You may also like to check out my posts on other delicious food places here