“Young master Bruce, must I remind you again?”
“Yes Alfred, that I should return my tray?”

“No, that your parents are dead”

The idea of hawker centre has been re-think — or so we thought. There is a trend of modernising food centres sprouting all over the island in recent years. The amber of this begins in coffeeshops and hawker centres selling craft beer and artisanal coffee.


Then timbre+ came along, it is probably the encompassment of all the ideas of what makes a modern food centre. Food in affordable pricing, no aircon, standardised store designs. Eateries and cuisines that were once only found in restaurants are now brought to food centres — ramen, french cooking, ang moh pastries, etc.

The good thing about this revolution is that it spurs a new generation of young hawkers. Giving a twist in flavour — laksa pasta and salted egg yolk pasta, and at the same time we still get our timeless traditional — char kway teow and chicken rice, etc.

Among these new ideas, there are a few that demand behavioural changes. One of them is e-payment, the use of digital payment in purchasing of food, and the other is the automation of tray returns.

Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre

Automation of tray return is just one way of saying it. Some of them even implement a reward system of returning trays. Yishun Park Hawker centre demands $0.50 from their patrons if they wanted to use a tray, so in theory, it is more like renting a tray. And the money will only be returned if the customer returns the tray promptly back to the tray collection designated area. This is created a situation where some patrons would rather not commit themselves to having a tray to carry their food, instead, they opt for making multiple trips to and froth the stall and their table.

Another overkill in this area is the automated tray robot.

What is my purpose? You pass butter.

Automated robots created just solely to collect trays. And they are not even that smart to do the collection, you’ve to put the tray in them. Well so in actual fact, they are more like robots who just move dirty trays around.

Once they are linked to skynet, the possibilities are endless

At the end of the day, it will not be automation that will be the solution to us becoming tray returning citizens. It will not be the reward system either. I think tray returning needs to be more deeply ingrained into us, like moving to the sides of the MRT while passengers alight.

So let’s start by setting a good example to our kids and children by returning our own tray and teaching them to do so themselves and soon, the tables will be turned for this non-existing issue to begin with.

Lay your cards on the table in this issue of tray returning

I am a creative coder and a creative technologist. Visit me at https://chanwaihsuen.me/

I am a creative coder and a creative technologist. Visit me at https://chanwaihsuen.me/