Five months ago when we spoke to Love 972 DJ and actor Dennis Chew about shuttering one of his The Famous Zhou porridge stalls and the toll the COVID-19 pandemic was taking on his F&B businesses, he was understandably worried. During the Circuit Breaker, business for his four 888 Mookata kopitiam stalls dropped 40 per cent and he eventually closed its Bukit Batok outlet early June.

Well, turns out his concerns were unfounded. Business not only picked up in Phase 2, it’s back to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, they didn’t make any losses, also thanks in part to the government’s rental and wage relief schemes during the pandemic. And now Dennis and fellow actor and F&B business partner Chew Chor Meng are looking to expand their hawker empire.

Dennis reckons the suspension of self-service buffets has contributed to the sizzling demand for mookata. “Restaurants cannot offer buffet so people who enjoy communal dining are choosing to have mookata and hotpot instead,” he says.

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