Affordability of Belait’s Gerai Ramadhan draws vendors

With rental at $80 for the month, the number of businesses joining in the district's Gerai Ramadhan continues to increase

Beef Town's founder Hj Md Abu Wafi preparing their most popular dish - the mega beef burger - which comes with two patties, two eggs and two layers of cheese for $5.

At $80 a booth for a month, the Gerai Ramadhan in Kuala Belait and Seria are amongst the most affordable in Brunei for a municipality. It’s more than three times cheaper than it’s Bandar counterparts – and despite the wider decline in occupancy in Belait’s shop lots – the street food business during the fasting month is still a lucrative option for cottage businesses in the district.

This year, KB welcomes 185 vendors – five more than last year – at the Tudung Saji market while the setup at the Seria wet market remains unchanged at 20 vendors according to RYS Entertainment, who have been appointed by the KB and Seria Municipal Board to manage the month-long bazaar.

For 24-year-old founder of Beef Town Hj Md Abu Wafi Hj Abu Samah, this year’s Gerai Gerai Ramadhan is an opportunity to reinvent his parent’s decades-old business flipping burgers.

“Since I was five-years-old, we’ve been selling burgers at the market,” he said at his stall numbered 169 in KB. “But we’ve always bought the patties and other ingredients from the store. This year we’re making our own patties, marination and sauce to hopefully turn our burger business from any roadside business to its own brand called Beef Town.”

Gerai Ramadhan Belait has also attracted businesses from other districts, including Tutong-based Amelia Kebab and Bandar-based California Chilli Kebab.

Watch: Inside Gerai Ramadhan Belait at Tudung Saji and Seria’s wet market

“Our initial plan this year was to be both in Bandar and KB for the first time but we weren’t able to secure a spot (in BSB) but the turnout here in KB has been as good so far,” said founder Mohd Asriny Ali who’s been selling hotdogs with sausages topped with beef since 2013. “Hopefully we will be able to get some long term market (opportunities) in Belait in the future.”

Other Belait residents who have full-time jobs are also setting up shop. With most corporate office hours ending around 2pm – which is also the official starting hour for the Gerai Ramadhan – Belait’s professionals are out to validate their creations which they may potentially turn into full-time businesses in the future.

“Gerai Ramadhan is the biggest (sales opportunity) for small food businesses like us,” said Afzan Hj Ramlee who started selling iced desserts under Cocktail Garden KB with her fiancee in 2016.

“Pop-up events aren’t usually this long – and the rental is usually quite high. With Gerai Ramadhan it’s affordable, and it’s a lot of traffic, so it’s a great starting point for us since opening our own shop (at a commercial space) is expensive.”

Over in Seria, civil servant Mohd Nordin Hj Mohamad, who helps his mother run his family’s business selling satay, says Gerai Ramadhan has also helped them secure business outside the fasting month.

“A lot of the time if the customers like the product they’ll come by the next day, maybe even take our number for catering, deliveries or pick up,” said Nordin, whose family runs the business from their home in Panaga outside Ramadhan.

One of the more unique finds at Gerai Ramadhan Belait is Farasara Corner’s (stall 23) sotong sumbat which is grilled squid filled with potatoes and topped with sambal.