Poor sales lead Spruce Bistro @WKWSCI to relocate to North Hill

By Shabana Begum

 

Spruce Bistro @WKWSCI closed last month after almost three years of operations.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    PHOTOS: VALERIE LAY

Spruce Bistro @WKWSCI closed last month after almost three years of operations. PHOTOS: VALERIE LAY

SPRUCE Bistro at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) is relocating to the North Hill precinct, with a new cafe set to open in its place in April.

The bistro, whose tenant is unkeen to renew its lease at WKWSCI, closed early last month, almost three years after opening.

Poor human traffic and manpower constraints were the main reasons for the outlet’s closure, said Mr Vincent Teo, Assistant Director of Technology and Facilities at WKWSCI.

Dr Mark Cenite, the school’s Associate Chair (Academic), added: “The academic calendar makes traffic cyclical. Spruce faced some struggles because its brand identity, which is strongly established outside, is not a perfect match with the student market.”

Despite being conveniently located right outside the school, the bistro has not been popular among its student population.

Many WKWSCI students told the Nanyang Chronicle that they were glad to see the bistro go because of its overpriced fare.

“If I can go to Koufu and get a full meal with a drink for $5, I don’t see why I should buy a $5 sandwich from Spruce. That’s not my idea of lunch,” said second-year WKWSCI student Kyle Malinda-White, 24.

First-year WKWSCI student Ang Ming Wei, 21, said he wished Spruce had served fresh food, instead of refrigerated sandwiches “with measly 3-inch ham slices”.

Spruce offered refrigerated or pre-made meals such as salad, lasagna, pasta and rice meals, with prices ranging from $5 to $8.

Sandwiches cost between $5 and $6. Coffee, tea and desserts, such as cakes and cookies, were also available on the menu.

But the bistro also had its fair share of fans.

First-year WKWSCI student Bambby Cheuk said she liked Spruce for its convenient location and longer opening hours, as compared to other food places nearby which closed early.

“Spruce’s ambience drew me to it,” the 20-year-old said. “It was a good place to study and a great place to take my friends for a cup of coffee whenever they visited me in school.”

The Office of Housing and Auxiliary Services has called for tenders to find an operator for the new establishment located at WKWSCI, which will offer freshly brewed coffee, sandwiches, soup and a few Asian dishes.

First-year WKWSCI student Celine Koh is hopeful that the new cafe will serve a wider variety of food at affordable prices.

The 19-year-old said: “I expect the price range for the new cafe to be $3 to $12, depending on the quality and type of food. Friendly staff and good music would be an added bonus.”

Die-hard patrons of Spruce can visit the bistro’s new premises at Block 20A of North Hill precinct.

The outlet in North Hill will have a built-in kitchen exhaust to offer a wider variety of food.

It will function like a restaurant and will also be serving wine, said Mr Christopher Allan Limpin, who worked as supervisor at Spruce Bistro@WKWSCI.

The cafe's new outlet at North Hill is scheduled to open in April.

The cafe’s new outlet at North Hill is scheduled to open in April.

Despite being excited about the new working environment at North Hill, Mr Limpin said he is sad to leave as WKWSCI has been his home for the past four months.

The supervisor has become good friends with Spruce regulars, such as Associate Professor Christopher Khoo of WKWSCI.

Likewise, the bistro’s chummy baristas have made equally lasting impressions on faculty members. Assoc Prof Khoo said he will fondly remember Mr Limpin, who introduced new delicacies and desserts, such as panna cotta, to the bistro.

“Mr Limpin possessed a service attitude, professionalism and unfailing good humour — these are not easy to find in Singapore cafes.

“Spruce@WKWSCI may not have won over the crowds with its above average pricing,” Assoc Prof Khoo said. “But I, for one, will miss its passionate and personable baristas who lit up the bistro and gave it character.”

Dr Cenite, who patronised Spruce three times a day for his caffeine fix, added: “The barista Sam, who left in December for a higher-level position, was very friendly and always liked to chat about music.”

But he said he is also looking forward to the speedy entrance of the new cafe.

“I’ll miss the iced coffee, which was shockingly strong. I hope my lectures don’t become too low-energy without it,” he added.

Additional reporting by Wong Jing Hui