Modern, hygienic set-up draws more customers

A fried ‘bee hoon’ stall at newly upgraded Anson Road Market hawker complex at George Town, Penang.

Customers and operators are delighted with the better dining experience and increased business at the upgraded Anson Road Market hawker complex in George Town, Penang.

The hawker centre in Jalan Anson, which had been in operation for more than 50 years, was given a RM2.2mil upgrade and reopened for business in the middle of last year, to positive reviews.

It features, among other things, improved ventilation, rainwater harvesting and a centralised exhaust system.

Third-generation koay teow soup seller Lai Tuc Wah, 37, said the improvements set a whole new standard to the business and considers it a milestone for hawkers there.

“The new place is cleaner compared to when my grandmother and father operated here.

“Everything is now proper and this is the way forward, by covering all aspects of hygiene.

“No more rats scurrying around, and we even have grease traps installed at every sink,” he said.

Lai, who preserves his family’s original koay teow soup recipe that consists of duck intestines, chicken skin and feet, said business had doubled since the food court was upgraded.

“In the past, we served mostly locals from around the neighbourhood and I would sell about 100 bowls daily.

“Now, we are also getting business from tourists and I can sell up to 200 bowls daily,” he said.

Noodles and dessert stall operator Keh Teng Hean, 60, who relocated here from Jalan Gurdwara where he had been trading for the past 20 years, said he was grateful to be given a slot.

“I was told that the rent to set up a stall at this food court used to be only RM15 monthly and with the upgrades, it now costs RM150.

“Despite costing 10 times more, I do not mind paying as the improvements are worth it.

“There is a centralised exhaust system to suck up the fumes from our cooking, among other enhancements to keep the place cleaner for all hawkers,” he said.

Among the customers pleased with the upgraded hawker complex was 52-year-old dispatcher S. Vadivelu, who said he grew up eating at the old food court.

“I live nearby and for almost 50 years, this is where I will come to almost every day for breakfast and coffee.

“I remember the old place being humid and hot in the afternoons, but it is now well ventilated and cool throughout the day.

“Although the stalls now look different, the food still tastes just as good,” said Vadivelu, who was there with his family.

Businessman Mohd Faisal Amiruddin, 42, said the overall atmosphere of the upgraded hawker complex left a good impression on visitors.

“Visitors nowadays place a high value on convenience and ambiance.

“Customers should feel comfortable whenever they enter any food premises, so the hawker complex’s upgrade is definitely a good thing to start with.

“This is the way forward,” said Mohd Faisal, who operates a sundry shop nearby.

He said he might lose some customers, who used to purchase drinks at his place, to the upgraded food court.

“But I am fine as I myself have been frequenting the place.

“If we want to develop, we need to accept changes in a positive manner. I wish other food courts and markets will be upgraded as well,” he added.

Modern makeover

The RM2.2mil upgrading project of the Anson Road Market hawker complex started in July 2020 and was completed around the middle of last year.

The old hawker centre was demolished and the roof structure raised, which greatly improved air circulation. The toilets were upgraded too.

Hawkers from 21 stalls were shifted to a temporary site outside the market during the construction.

Among the distinctive features of the new place are colourful sun shade panels on three sides of the building, with cross ventilation.

They shield against sunlight coming from the east and the west, while allowing proper ventilation.

Rainwater is harvested for use in the toilets; contractors designed the roof to be simple and yet will efficiently channel falling rain into the tanks.

Every individual stall is equipped with a grease trap and on top of which, there is a centralised grease trap to stop pollutants from flowing into the waterways.

To illuminate the complex and provide additional ventilation, LED lights and ceiling fans were installed.

There’s also an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) set installed at the entrance of the complex in case of cardiac emergencies.

All the upgrades are meant to address the grouses of hawkers and visitors to the hawker complex over the past years.

City councillor Wong Yuee Harng said Penang Island City Council (MBPP) was still adding final touches within the defect liability period.

“Hawkers have moved in and overall they are feeling positive about the upgrade, albeit now paying slightly more in rental.

“With the ceiling height increased and air ventilation improved, everyone is grateful for the better comfort,” he said.

Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng said the upgraded food court was now a “hot spot” within the Jalan Irving Village Community Management Council (MPKK) area and would need more parking lots.

He said many visitors come to the hawker complex on motorcycles and the lack of systematic parking causes chaos and traffic congestion.

“To alleviate the problem, we are looking into creating more areas with proper parking bays and improving traffic flow around the vicinity,” he said.

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