From right to left: Cafe staff – Ahmad Irfan bin Azhari, Chiam Hui Ling and Henry Lim together with Jenny Teng (second from right); former Chairman and now Advisor of Crossings Cafe, preparing food for delivery/takeaway. Photo: Crossings Cafe

Fr Valerian Cheong whips up the Good Shepherd’s Pie

Leonard Leow

Like many restaurants and cafes island-wide, Crossings Cafe has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the current circuit breaker measures that have been put in place.

To cope with the situation, the cafe is constantly updating its menu to offer customers more choices. Come June 9, there will be new items featured on its menu. One of these is the Good Shepherd Pie, a dish which follows a recipe created by Father Valerian Cheong.

The cafe had to slash prices of many dishes by almost 50%. For example, the, Franciscan burger, a main dish which is based on a recipe invented by Friar John-Paul Tan, is now selling at a special price of just $9.80.

Several other changes were also implemented. These include simplifying the cafe’s menu and reducing the number of offerings. A special delivery/takeaway menu was also created for this period. Customers will be pleased to note that there remains a variety in the cafe’s offerings as there are still 11 main dishes and five types of side dishes that customers can choose from.

The cafe has also signed up with various delivery services including Grab and Deliveroo to provide island-wide delivery. Additionally, the cafe also offers the takeaway option, where customers can pre-order their food online before coming down to the cafe to collect it.

Said Mr Raphael Saw, a Board Member responsible for marketing the cafe, “Even before the pandemic struck, we were already struggling financially.” The local F&B industry has always been a competitive one. Added to that Crossings Cafe is located on a quiet street with minimal traffic. These are factors that have proved challenging for the cafe in attracting a flow of customers.

Prior to the pandemic, the cafe was working on new marketing ideas and dishes to attract more customers. However, many of these ideas have had to be shelved or changed after the pandemic struck unexpectedly.

“We had to make quick and decisive changes immediately,” he said. COVID and the ensuing circuit breaker phase meant that there were several restrictions imposed on the manner that the cafe could operate.

Despite the struggles and challenges confronting the cafe, Mr Saw emphasised that no matter what happens, the cafe will always adhere to its Catholic social teaching and ensure that it fosters an environment of respect, dignity and care for both its customers and staff.

Crossings Cafe is first and foremost a Catholic social enterprise that hires special needs individuals and it pays all its staff market rates. It also shares the earnings from the service charge with the staff, an incentive not widely practised by all eateries. “The main reason we do this is to ensure that the proper respect and dignity is accorded to the staff,” explained Mr Saw.

Even during such difficult and unprecedented times, all the staff are involved in certain aspects of the business decision-making process. This ensures that the voices of all staff are respected and heard. Said Mr Saw, “This crisis has brought the team closer together resulting in a sense of renewed vibrancy and cohesiveness amongst the staff.”

While COVID has brought about great uncertainty and apprehension among the staff, God’s grace is also very much evident in the situation that the cafe is facing.

There has been an outpouring of support by good Samaritans and patrons alike who have come forward to help with the finances of the cafe. Mr Saw revealed that there are many customers who do not live near the vicinity of the cafe but who have ordered takeaways for their friends working in the essential services.

The cafe also works closely with the Catholic Welfare Service (CWS) to provide food for the vulnerable.

There is likewise a group of individuals who have bought food from the cafe and donated their orders to the healthcare workers in the hospitals.

Said Mr Saw, “We experience God’s hands at work and marvel at the goodness of humanity shining through during this period of time.” The acts of kindness, generosity and charity of these people is a representation of Christ’s love and mercy.

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