Danial Habib - Habib Family Restaurant

Danial Habib, 22, from Habib Family Restaurant | Photo: Andre Frois

Danial Habib, 22, points to the damage that the flames dealt to his exhaust chute.

“These are the unexpected difficulties that we face,” he said of his family’s business of running a food stall at Bukit Batok in the west of Singapore.

Habib Family Restaurant, which has been there since 1988 and sits diagonally opposite Bukit Gombak MRT station, is something like a Muslim tze cha (stir-fry) stall, serving interesting halal interpretations of Chinese dishes such as hotplate tofu and even the non-pork version of bak kut teh (originally a spiced pork rib soup dish).

The stall is also famous for its variety of rice set meals such as nasi rawan, nasi lemak and nasi sambal goreng served at lunch, and Danial’s  mother would pack for residents and workers in the Bukit Batok area.

“We’ve been here for a long time, so now we have a steady stream of customers who drop by and place their orders without (even) having to look at the menu,” Danial observed.

The young man looks set to one day inherit his family’s business. After graduating with a diploma in business, he decided to go fulltime into his job to help his father, Habib Mohamad, who is now 64 years old.

Yet, the reason to move into the food business wasn’t just to help his father.

NO OFFICE JOB, THANK YOU

Danial himself cannot imagine himself stuck working behind a desk in an office. He prefers hands-on work and managing a food stall suits him better.

He said he doesn’t know many of his friends who would be up for such a job.

“Very few young people want to work in a hawker centre or coffee shop because it involves a lot of hard work – long 12-hour days and it is hot in the kitchen,” he said.

While he had expected the long hours and hard work, he still wasn’t quite prepared for the wide range of challenges that come with the running of a small-sized food establishment.

That included the burnt exhaust chute damaged by flames and which required him to fork out a “hefty” amount of money for repairs.

“One day, you deal with repairs, another day, you tweak the quality of service or the food. On top of that, we still have to worry about the prices of milk, gas, meat and worker levies which are always rising,” he said.

Danial’s daily routine starts when he wakes at 9am. He spends the day supervising his employees and overseeing the food preparation until 1am when the restaurant closes its doors. The whole process repeats itself after a short night’s rest.

NO TIME FOR DATING

Ever since he got involved in his father’s business a year ago, Danial admitted that he has not had time to date or even to meet his friends, unless they visit him at his stall.

Being new to the job, he is naturally enthusiastic. He proudly showed off a brand new extended roof that was recently installed. It was his idea to put it up.

“The HDB (Housing Board) is taking back some of our seating area, but I am going to renovate the stall to increase its kitchen area and dining capacity. After I get more experience running this shop, I would like to open two or three more outlets,” he said.

He has heard of the talk that the hawker trade might be dying out, but he doesn’t buy it.

“People will always want their hawker food and when there is demand, there will always be people to provide it,” he said.

Habib Family Restaurant | Address: Blk 374, Bukit Batok Street 31, #01-194

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