Braced for rough weather amid Covid-19: Ex-nurse has finger on pulse of F&B challenges

Since joining the food and beverage industry 14 months ago after she left the nursing profession, Ms Norefa Riffin has gone from having zero experience in the field to overseeing inventory, finances and menu planning, even manning the stove herself.

The manager of catering firm says that working in this sector – among those badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic – has shown her how both businesses and workers alike need to be able to adjust quickly to challenges.

The company, which provides a mix of Western and Asian cuisines, has moved from operating a cafeteria stall and managing events catering to a delivery-only business out of a central kitchen in Pandan Crescent.

“During this situation, with people getting retrenched and the loss of jobs, it (shows that) we need to always adapt and change ourselves,” says Ms Norefa.

Her husband Noor Hisham, 47, works in research and development in the F&B industry.

She has embraced the opportunities which have come with new challenges, taking pride in sharing her love and passion for food through cooking, especially Kelantanese cuisine, after trying it on a trip to Malaysia.

The 47-year-old is no stranger to change, being a freelance nurse who became tired of the irregular hours and made the switch to the F&B industry after doing a professional conversion programme under Workforce Singapore.

Ironically, her daughter Nur Arifah Syahindah, 18, has recently decided to switch from studying leisure and travel operations at the Institute of Technical Education to nursing, even though she is due to complete the two-year course in October.

“She said that most of her classmates didn’t get good internships because many companies (in the sector) were not really hiring, which (along with the retrenchments in the industry) really affected her,” Ms Norefa says.

She was initially against the decision, with her daughter being close to completing the course, but her only child’s determination to pursue nursing won her over.

“I have to respect her decision because this is what she wants,” says Ms Norefa, acknowledging that job prospects are better in nursing compared with the travel and leisure sector, given the coronavirus situation.

Before the pandemic hit, the family of three had been wanting to travel overseas, Ms Norefa says.

“But after Covid-19 hit, it’s no longer a priority for us.

“To have a good livelihood, a sustainable livelihood, that’s more important.”

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