[Editor's note, Nov. 29 4:50pm: An earlier version of this article classified category B-1 visas as working visas. The article has since been updated.]
Ashes Burnnit, a Singaporean hawker burger chain, has closed its outlet in New York.
Ashes Burnnit specialises in charcoal bun burgers and has other offerings, including mac and cheese and western grilled food.
They have six outlets in Singapore.
In a report by Berita Harian, owner Lee Syafiq Muhd Ridzuan Lee cited economic uncertainty and difficulties obtaining work visas.
Ashes Burnnit opened in Urban Hawker, a Singapore-style hawker food centre, in September 2022.
Urban Hawker was created through a partnership between Makansutra founder K.F. Seetoh and Urbanspace, which has multiple food halls in New York and across the United States.
High operational costs and time difference
Syafiq also had to cease operations as it was difficult to continue day-to-day operations, saying even though they received good reception in the first three months of business, it got harder in the next few months.
"A few of our Singaporean staff, for example, received their temporary business visitor visas (visa category B-1) but we failed to obtain permanent ones for them," he said.
The high operational costs were another factor.
According to Syafiq, it costs 1.5 times more to run the New York stall than to run a stall in Singapore.
For example, a cook's salary can cost more than US$4,000 (S$5,361) a month, after taxes.
Meanwhile, it's about an average of S$2,300 in Singapore.
Running operations in Singapore and New York at the same time, where there is a 13-hour time difference, is another challenge.
Hopes to reopen stall
Despite these challenges, Syafiq isn't giving up on New York.
With his experience, he aims to reopen a stall in New York in early 2024.
"What's important is I've never regretted whatever I've tried," he said.
Top image from @ashesburnnitnyc and @ashesgburnnit