honestbee cuts 80% of staff, suspends habitat and ventures into pizza biz


Honestbee has laid off about 80% of its staff in Singapore. An honestbee spokesperson confirmed to Marketing that the total headcount was at 130 prior to the lay offs.  This comes shortly after a Business Times article reported that the staff have not been paid since February 2020. The article said salary repayments of former employees at honestbee have also yet to be paid off. In response to this, an honestbee spokesperson said to Marketing that the company is not in a financial position to make payments in full given the protracted closure of habitat by honestbee.

"The company has kept its employees and ex-staff informed on the company’s position and further updates will be provided in due course. Likewise, the relevant authorities have been informed of the circumstances," the statement read.

Honestbee has not had the smoothest of times since May 2019. There were several leadership changes as co-founder and CEO Joel Sng exited, and Brian Koo took on the interim CEO role. The CEO title was then handed to Ong Lay Ann in July 2019. However, months after in September, Koo exits the company. This came days before Ong filed for an affidavit for delays in staff salaries amounting to about SG$1 million.  Honestbee also said then that some roles within the organisation will no longer be available as approximately 10% of its global headcount in the organisation was affected.

The business at its concept store habitat by honestbee has also been in the red. Habitat by honestbee was initially temporarily suspended until 23 February 2020 due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Singapore. However, an honestbee spokesperson has confirmed that the management has decided to suspend habitat by honestbee in view of difficult commercial circumstances. The company has also since seen a significant reduction in walk-in traffic at habitat by honestbee.

However, the company has since ventured into a pizza joint business. An honestbee spokesperson confirmed to Marketing that honestbee has a retail store located at Upper East Coast Road which will become a quick service F&B pizza concept and a tech-enabled convenience store. The company will be leveraging on its previously developed F&B concepts and capitalising on existing technologies to spin-off quick-service restaurants (QSRs). The retail store on Upper East Coast Road is similar in concept to habitat by honestbee, and will utilise existing technologies that are already developed and familiar to users. These include the click-and-collect functionalities, Scan and Go feature, and its proprietary BeePay wallet. 

Unlike a conventional dine-in restaurant, honestbee said there will not be any labour intensive demands at its quick service F&B concept and tech-enabled convenience store.  “We also have ready developed hardware and software infrastructure that can be repurposed for our new honestbee concept including our digital kiosks, POS systems and honestbee app. This means that we will be operating at lower costs from the get-go,” the spokesperson added. 

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