In the old days, one could go to the stall and place an order. The main stall holder and his or her assistant would track us (using eye sight technology) to where we would be sitting. It was amazing how many orders the stall holder could remember. Of course, if you are fickle minded and change your orders, chances are you will get scolding from him or her. The queue system in the brain just go haywire!
Of course, in those days, the stalls have their own tables and chairs and hence it was territorial. You have to order from that stall to be able to sit by their tables. Sometimes, they allow you to order other dishes that were deemed to be not competitive to them. And it was easy to track your whereabout. Even then, for some, it could quite a distance away.
Cleaning of the tables were swift because the stallholders want their new customers to come and eat.
When commonly run food centres were set up, there were problems. Maybe the allocation of the stalls were not considered properly. Two coffee stalls placed side by side was bound to create territorial war. There was free seating, which was good for the customers. Some more aggressive coffee stall holders would rush to grab the customers. And hence "no touting" signs came up.
Today, the customers have to go and queue up to buy their food. In many cases, one might not be able to find a space to sit when one has purchased the food. And hence, the saga of placing tissues on the table or chairs. All kinds of gadgets started appearing, from umbrellas to company ID cards and even handphones! Marketing companies took the opportunity to sell or give away tissue packs with the word "Chope" printed on them.
So, each day, over lunch and dinner, as well as over breakfast, it is a nightmare in the food centres. Piles of meal leftovers with their plates, bowls, folks, spoons and chopsticks were stacked up on the tables. The cleaners could not clear fast enough. Another idea of getting the customers to return the used plates or bowls to the tray met with varying success. There were not enough trays and the tray racks were placed out of the way. And so, many quietly slip away after eating, leaving the mess on the tables.
Many things will have to be considered to improve on the situation. In the meantime, the Singaporeans just endure and enjoy the food, especially if it is delicious.