Barber takes a cut

Barber.jpgCompetition for business is everywhere. Even everyday services have to learn to adapt to market demand and pricing in order to survive.

Case in point is my barber. I’ve been going to him for my snips for several years. He used to charge S$10 each time but raised it to S$12 a couple of years ago.

As a regular, I have not issue with this increase because of inflation and continued going to his shop in the heartland.

Yesterday, I went for my cut and was surprised that the S$12 sticker on his rate card was removed with the price reduced to the original S$10 of recent past.

I was curious and thought that perhaps there was a mistake.

Why asked, he sighed and replied that he had to reduce the rate two months ago because potential walk-in customers saw the price and did not come in.

He had to do this to draw more customers in the face of growing competition.

Price is a sensitive matter — perhaps more so in HDB towns. Over the past few years, new hair salons have sprung up in the neighbourhood where my barber is located.

Some look new and spanky and offer cuts at highly competitive prices — as low as S$5. In some other areas, I have seen prices as low as S$3.

While the price sounds good for consumers, it can take a hit for service providers who rely on a regular clientele to survive. Barbers sell time so whether it’s a S$3 or S$12 cut, it still takes the same amount of time. Charging a lower rate means that they are earning less per hour.

Competition and an ever changing business landscape are inevitable but there has to be a bar somewhere. Otherwise, traditional barbers may find it hard to make a living and close shop altogether.

Top End chicken rice a contender for best Down Under

IMG_20190209_205445_558.jpgBorn and bred in Singapore, I have a biase when it comes to chicken rice, or food for that matter. I’ve yet to taste a chicken rice outside the country, aside from Malaysia, that is good enough for me. Even those recommended by well-thinking friends in their home countries have fallen short.

I’ve tried chicken rice in a few places in Australia, mainly in Sydney, and found them to be different from my preferred taste.

Hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I ate at an Asian restaurant in Darwin. Based on my past experience, I wasn’t expecting much other than to have an Asian meal to fill my stomach on a hot summer day.

On the menu at Fusion Cafe Darwin was chicken rice. It was pricey too at A$17. My wife and I decided to order one portion since she wasn’t really hungry.

The service was excellent was the staff (who looks like she could be the boss) was sensitive to our needs. She asked if we wanted an additional plate to share the rice and even offered us another bowl of soup.

At first glance, the chicken rice’s presentation was nothing to shout about. It looks like what we get from our local hawker centres. The plate came with a generous portion of chicken and char siew.

Even when we divided the food between us, both of us had more than enough.

The chicken was boiled and a little hard, probably because it had been cooked earlier. But, it’s not unlike what we’ve tasted elsewhere in Australia.

The char siew, sliced in thicker chunks than back home, is tasty.

Accompanying the main course was a dip comprising sambal chilli and chicken rice chilli. The mix of spiciness and sourness make for an interesting taste which went well with the meats.

I loved the salted vegetable soup which was rich and tasty.

What is chicken rice without the rice? Made from broken rice grain (which is my rice of choice from chicken rice), it was flavourful and reminded me of home. It’s that good. Now, Australia can claim to have at least one chicken rice that ticks the right boxes for me.

If you happen to be at the Top End, do check out Fusion Cafe Darwin at Shop 18, 356 Bagot Rd, Millner.