Not returning your trays? Perhaps some reminder should work

Hawker centres are facing numerous problems nowadays. Fewer people are willing to work as hawkers. Prices of ingredients and rents are rising. Most importantly, people are not returning their trays after they are done with their meals.

Used crockery and cutlery left behind on tables
Source: Straits Times

So now, we have the question:

“How to get people to return their trays?”

Well, it turns out that the solution is very simple: Put up more reminders.

By spamming reminders all over the place, two hawker centres have seen a paradigm shift in mindset. Customers are now returning their trays more regularly.


People returning their trays
Source: Rice Media

When I use the word spam, I really mean it…

The two hawker centres, Zio Riverside Food Centre and Adam Food Centre, have reminders everywhere; emblazoned on banners, tables and even aprons wore by cleaners.

Reminder on Tables
Look at the table, not the food… Source: Straits Times

Another way to get customers to return their trays could be through a deposit system. At Timber+, customers pay an extra $1 as a deposit for their tray. They will get their $1 back when they bring the tray to the return area.

returning of trays
Source: tunitytech

So far, this has worked well for the customers of timbre+, although new visitors may lose their $1 should they be confused.


I would agree that getting customers to return their trays is an excellent practice. This not only frees up the table for others in rush but also lightens the load of the cleaners.

However, I do see some cleaners taking the opportunity to slack as a result. They are not as urgent when cleaning the tables and this still leaves many tables very dirty. Perhaps the hawker management will need to remind the cleaners to still continuing their pace and wipe the tables to keep them clean.

Source: The Independent

Overall, I do still believe that customers can do their part to contribute to cleaner hawker centres but the cleaners should not go too easy just because of this.

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