Consumers are beating the Chinese New Year reunion dinner crowds by ordering steamboat packages online, dining earlier or even going to Johor.
At least four companies have sprung up in the last three years to offer home deliveries of steamboat packages, including festive reunion dinner sets.
Reunion Steamboat and Mr Steamboat, which get 10 to 20 orders a month, have seen orders go up to around 40 and more than 80 respectively this month.
At Mr Steamboat, business has nearly tripled in the lead-up to Chinese New Year compared to the same period last year.
Its owner Fred Chan, 33, said most of its customers had been looking for steamboat delivery services online. “They felt that it was more convenient than going to the supermarkets to queue up and better than having to pay more for a big group dinner at restaurants,” he said.
Mr Pang Xue Kai, 25, who started Eat Together last month, said: “With this service, you don’t need a big kitchen to prepare the ingredients. Companies can even have steamboat in their offices.”
Steamboat packages usually include a soup base plus cut and washed ingredients such as meat, seafood and vegetables. Prices range from $80 for a five-person set at The Steamboat Specialist to $339 for a premium 12-person set at Reunion Steamboat, which has wagyu beef and scallops from Hokkaido.
Most companies can provide a pot and stove for a fee.
The convenience is attractive to younger families, who may not have time to shop for and prepare the food needed for a steamboat meal, said Ms Eileen Sim, 28, who started The Steamboat Specialist with her parents.
One consumer who likes such services is Ms Chen Jieying, 28, who runs her own business. She has ordered from Reunion Steamboat a few times and her family plans to book a package for Chinese New Year’s Eve.
She said: “The food is not bad and the price is reasonable. It is more convenient as I do not have to go to the supermarket.”
While some plan to stay home to wait for steamboat deliveries, others are going across the Causeway for their reunion dinners, to cash in on the weak ringgit.
Malaysian newspaper The Star reported that popular seafood restaurants in Johor Baru have had more bookings by Singaporeans ahead of Chinese New Year.
Then there are those who simply hold their reunion dinners earlier to beat the crowd. Chinese restaurant chain Crystal Jade has reservations for the end of this week, a spokesman said. Reunion dinners are traditionally held on the eve of Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 19 this year.
Businessman Cheong Sing Fatt 57, had his reunion dinner on Wednesday with his extended family of 32. “We are able to enjoy ourselves more… We don’t have to rush through dinner just so that the restaurant staff can prepare for the next seating,” he said.