$1,000 daily takings not enough: Rui Ji Chicken Rice at Ubi, which hires disabled staff, to close just 4 months after opening

$1,000 daily takings not enough: Rui Ji Chicken Rice at Ubi, which hires disabled staff, to close just 4 months after opening
Siblings Jass Lee (front) and Joseph Tan (extreme right) set up the stall at Ubi with the intention to help people with disabilities find employment.
PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

Just four months after opening its brand new outlet in Ubi, Traditional Rui Ji Chicken Rice and Curry Chicken Noodle will be shuttering its stall come April 16.

The reason is due?to?poor business. According to Shin Min Daily News, the stall, which?began operations last December, is owned by Joseph Tan, 58, and co-founded by his step-sister, Jass Lee, who has a disability.

Joseph is related to the founder of the former Swee Kee Chicken Rice and also Sing Swee Kee Chicken Rice located at Seah Street.

Rui Ji Chicken Rice itself has two other branches?—?in Toa Payoh Lorong 4 and at Beach Road.

Joseph told Shin Min that he had set up the business at Ubi to realise Jass' dream of opening a chicken rice stall.

And not just any ordinary chicken rice stall, but one that employs people with disabilities.

Jass, who moves about in a wheelchair, suffered spinal injuries after getting into an accident in Malaysia over a decade ago. Due to an infection, she?had to get part of her leg amputated, Shin Min reported.

The siblings' intention in opening the shop was to provide disabled persons with the?opportunity to earn a stable income and to sustain a living.

Speaking with AsiaOne, Joseph said that he had employed four employees with disabilities at the start, but now only two remain.

One of them, Loo Kah Hock, 50, shared with us?that he used to own his own?business but lost the ability to work after suffering a stroke more than four years ago. The stroke?affected mobility on the right side of his body.

He had managed to find a job last year as a warehouse assistant, but was asked to leave after he had to take prolonged medical leave following surgery to amputate two of his toes.

Finding the job at Rui Ji with help from local charity SPD gave him a glimmer of hope.

"Being able to work is a good thing, if not there's nothing to do at home. I don't even know what I'm able to do or what I'm capable of," said Kah Hock.

The business is not only inclusive in its hiring practices, but also in its service as well.

Jass told Shin Min Daily News that the stall has a dedicated queue for the elderly and the disabled.

"When we see customers who are elderly or those with disabilities, our employees will help them bring their food to the table. For regular customers, however, it's self-service, so as to ease the burden on our employees with disabilities," said Jass.

She'd also observed how customers can be short-tempered when serviced by staff members with disabilities and expressed hope that more members of the public can show them kindness and grace.

"I'm a disabled person myself and have undergone five or six surgeries due to stomach cancer. I may be in a wheelchair but am still able to work just like everyone else, I just need more time. I hope people won't be prejudiced against us and have more patience and understanding," said Jass.

Daily earnings of almost $1,000 not enough

Despite the setback, the siblings don't plan to give up on their dream,?and Joseph is currently on the hunt for another space which can also serve as the business'?central kitchen.

Joseph shared with AsiaOne that he'd invested about $55,000 into the Ubi stall.

"I want to open a business to help people with disabilities, but we have no choice but to close because business here is too poor," he shared, stating that a day's takings can barely hit?$1,000 on a good day.

"$1,000 a day in earnings can't even cover the cost of ingredients and running the stall," he added.

As for what will happen to the employees after the closure, Joseph said that they will be redeployed to other branches in the interim while they scout for another location.

ALSO READ: 'This is a tough one to write': Popular burger hawker Hammee's announces closure of Commonwealth stall after 4 years

candicecai@asiaone.com

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