Slow business for F&B despite easing MCO

Challenging times: Lim at one of his food outlets at Jaya One in Petaling Jaya. Lim, who owns 48 stores nationwide, says it will take quite a while before customers return to shopping malls with confidence again.

PETALING JAYA: The food and beverage sector will see continued challenges as consumers remain cautious about dining out despite relaxation of the movement control order (MCO).

Boat Noodles restaurant owner Tony Lim said business has been slow since the government announced earlier this month that restaurants could already start operating, albeit with certain conditions in place.

“Around 40% of our stores, all of which are located in shopping malls, are open.

“However, business has been slow as footfall into shopping centres have been quite low, ” he told StarBiz.

Lim, who owns 48 stores nationwide, said it would take quite a while before customers will return to shopping malls with confidence again.

“It will take time before people become comfortable again. We are hopeful that in the week before Hari Raya, things picking up again.”

The government imposed MCO on March 18 to tackle the rising number of Covid-19 infections. The MCO, which was initially supposed to last two weeks, has been extended to June 9.

On May 1, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that almost all economic sectors and business activities would be allowed to resume, effective May 4.

This also meant that dining would be allowed in restaurants nationwide subject to strict conditions. However, several state governments had decided not to permit dine-in customers.

Lim said there was still some level of confusion on what was allowed and what was not.

“There were so many rules to comply with. Not only us, but mall operators as well. Many businesses were still unsure about how to go about things and this also created confusion with many customers.”

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) president T. Muthusamy (pic above)said the association has seen a tiny increase in business operations since the conditional MCO took effect.

“We spoke to some of our operators and there has been a small increase, about 10%.

“The crowd mobility is there. So far in Selangor, we are only allowing takeaways and no dine-ins.

“We believe that once all restaurants can facilitate dine-ins, business will improve.”

Meanwhile, a recent survey carried out by the Department of Statistics Malaysia indicated that almost 40,000 respondents (or more than 90%) were ready to continue with current safeguards during the movement control order even after the MCO is lifted.

The online survey that was carried out from April 10 to 24 found that 92.9% or 38,455 respondents said they were prepared to adopt such safe measures after the MCO ends.

The findings showed that 93.6% said they will increase their level of cleanliness and hygiene while 83.3% said they will limit social activities and 67.1% will limit travelling.

About 43.5% said they will not eat out, a figure that would not bode well for the immediate term for the local F&B sector.

Muthusamy said its association members were complying with all of the government’s strict business standards. He said all of its members have raised the hygiene and cleanliness levels of their premises, as well as that of their staff.

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