Pandemic takes toll on restaurant operators

JOHOR BARU: Restaurant operators in Johor are in a quandary — to raise or not to raise prices at their outlets.

If they do, they may lose customers and if they do not, they may be forced to close shop.

Many said the Covid-10 pandemic had affected them badly.

During the movement control order, they opened for shorter hours and allowed fewer customers into their premises in adhering to standard operating procedures (SOP) to maintain social distancing.

Raja Mohamad Kassim, who has four mamak restaurants here, said not being able to operate 24 hours has led to a drastic drop in income.

“I have been in this business for 20 years and this is my worst experience.

“I spend about RM40,000 a month on rental, utilities and salary for my workers in each shop. I have three in Johor Jaya and one in Taman Molek.

“When open throughout the day, there were no problems as there were many customers.

“Now I am operating at a loss every month, ” he complained.

Raja said if the situation persisted, his business would suffer.

“I may have to start charging more for food and drinks to stay in business, ” he said.

A manager of a restaurant in Taman Molek, who wanted to be known as just Fariz, agreed with Raja.

“Times are difficult now as 24-hour restaurants are used to operating all day and earning more.

“Now with fewer hours and fewer customers, we are incurring losses.

“Also, the prices for raw materials such as vegetables and fish have increased, adding to our problems.

“I am not sure if the restaurant can sustain staying in business any more, ” said Fariz.

Hawker Kow Teck Phing, 55, said some of his regular customers had stopped coming.

“At my stall in a coffeeshop in Taman University here, we adhere strictly to the SOP.

“With social distancing, I have very few tables and chairs for customers and many now stay away, affecting sales.

“I don’t know how long I can go on like this.

“I have bills to pay but my income has reduced drastically, ” said Kow.

Johor Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar, when contacted, said business operators must accept the current situation and make the best of it.

“The SOP is to keep them and their customers safe. Find other ways to generate income, like moving business online, to increase revenue.

“Hopefully, the situation will change for the better soon, ” he said.

On complaints from restaurant owners that prices of vegetables and fish had increased, he urged the relevant authorities to look into the matter.

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