IT SOUNDS cheesy, but the cool thing among clubbers is... dinner and dance. Not stuffy year-end corporate functions, but bars serving up proper meals to partygoers.
Forget bar grub, such as chicken wings and hotdogs. The trend is for nightspots to style themselves as one-stop 'gastropubs' - especially in the wake of the non-smoking ban which kicked in last July, making dining in a club a more pleasant experience.
The result is that clubbers no longer have to head elsewhere for dinner after a steamy workout on the dance floor.
And the tasty result for nightspots is that it increases revenue and keeps those customers coming.
One popular club that has taken to serving up night-time nosh is Mandopop club Dragonfly at the St James Power Station entertainment complex.
Just like at a Chinese restaurant, dim sum is on the menu.
Revellers can choose from more than five items such as steamed prawn dumpling, deep-fried prawn dumplings and roast pork buns, priced from $1.80 to $4.50, served in mini baskets.
Over at Lunar, a Chinese club at Clarke Quay, patrons can tuck into a bowl of chicken porridge, crabmeat fried rice or fried beehoon priced from $10.
Bar operators say that with more emphasis on food, their businesses draw partygoers who eat and diners who then drink.
Six months ago, Barfly, at Clarke Quay, introduced a four-course continental set dinner for women at $28. It attracted a steady stream of diners - including men who order from the a la carte menu - staying on for drinks after that, notes Mr Sanjay Joseph, assistant vice-president (special projects) of Lifebrandz, which operates the outlet.
Hungry bargoers at St James don't have to go too far to savour their favourite hawker fare.
In January, the What You Do Prata outlet and Din Tai Fung Noodle Bar located at the complex were replaced by Ah Wok, which offers zhi char (wok-fried) items to suit a wide range of palates.
The menu includes assam curry fish head, crispy tofu, porridge and sambal kangkong, priced from $4.50 per item. And the move has paid off: With a 20 per cent increase in patronage, the eatery has hired two more chefs to add to its six-man team.
Ah Wok, which is owned by the listed BreadTalk group, one of the three shareholders of St James, opens from 6pm to 6am during weekends to cater to the late-night clubbing crowd.
Mr Andrew Ing, 40, chief operating officer of StJames, tells Life!: 'Food has always been an integral part of the drinking experience. But over time, customers' expectations have increased, hence the wider variety. It means patrons can dine, drink, party and have supper without leaving the premises.'
St James, which has nine outlets, draws about 3,000 patrons on weekdays, and over 8,000 people on weekends.
Since expanding its food offerings, including a new tapas spread in February, the average customer's expenditure on food has gone up from $15 to between $30 and $50 per table, Mr Ing says.
As for Ah Wok alone, customer spending has spiked from $20 to $30 per person to about $50 to $60 now, says operations manager Tan Kent Siong, 42.
At Lunar, the average spending on food is between $24 and $30 for a table of five. And people tend to drink more as they eat, observes Lunar's spokesman Gavin Choo.
Thanks to a smoke-free environment, some partygoers Life! spoke to said they are more inclined to stay and eat.
Corporate banker Jennifer Chiam, 32, said: 'I don't like eating in a smoke-filled room or next to someone who is puffing away.'
Although food and drinks complement each other, the two were 'disengaged' in the past because of the smoking laws in Singapore, notes bar operator Michel Lu, 38.
He explains: 'Then, patrons couldn't smoke and drink at the same time if the outlet was serving food using cutlery, like in a restaurant. When the no-smoking ban kicked in, bar operators were able to integrate the two components.'
Last December, he opened Prive at Keppel Bay, which serves fine dining at its restaurant, tapas at its alfresco bar, and light meals (pies, salads and soups) at its Bakery Cafe.
Even smaller bars are taking a bigger bite of the pie.
Five-month-old Turnstyles Sports Bar Cafe at Holland Village, which initally opened for dinner at 5pm, now also serves lunch between 11am and 3pm, says director Adrian Houghton, 35.
The spread, which includes chicken curry and pasta, goes for between $6.50 and $14.50. Turnstyles also serves pies and wings as snacks for those watching football at the bar.
But there's a limit to what the gastropubs are going to dish up to hungry patrons.
When asked if a bowl of soupy wonton noodles would make it to Dragonfly's menu, Mr Ing says: 'I don't think it's ideal. It can be messy. At the end of the day, we're not a restaurant and we shouldn't try to be one.'