FOOD business operators have experienced many types of restrictions since the Covid-19 pandemic hit over a year ago.
So, when stricter restrictions were imposed under the recent movement control order, they were better prepared.
In fact, the latest MCO ruling that compels eatery owners to only operate between 8am and 8pm for delivery and takeaway is the least of their problems.
For them, the biggest challenge is maintaining food quality during delivery in ensuring the goods are safe for consumption when customers receive their orders.
Superfine KL Cafe in Section 17, Petaling Jaya — which prides itself on serving fresh, Melbourne-inspired food since it opened early last year — was one of the many establishments that took a beating because of the pandemic.
After just over a month of opening for business last year, it dealt with the first MCO in March, followed by the conditional MCO, recovery MCO and the one earlier this year.
Its co-owner Sim Chee Howe said not everyone could adopt the delivery and takeaway business model like fast-food eateries.
“We are a dine-in restaurant. This is our business backbone. Our food is served hot at the table.
“We had to redo our entire F&B operations to minimise compromising on food quality, ” he told StarMetro.
Additional cost was incurred for special food packaging for delivery and takeaways as well as food delivery platforms.
“Delivery partners take a big cut in commission. When this happens, we have to increase our food cost to break even.
“It is a volatile domino effect, because with the SOP (standard operating procedure) and no dine-ins, more people are staying home. So our business is badly affected, ” he said.
Sim, who, like other restaurateurs who have to bear the brunt of overheads such as rental, material cost and staff salaries, is thankful for his understanding employees and supportive clients.
“We have 17 workers who are all locals and they are willing to take a pay cut, ” he said.
Sean Ooi, co-founder of Strangers at 47 in Section 17, Petaling Jaya, said the F&B industry could soldier on through the pandemic because they could still operate.
“But we have had to constantly tweak our menu and get our food out to customers any way we can, ” he said.
Ooi said restaurants were at the mercy of delivery partners — if there was not enough delivery riders for the day, the platform would mark the restaurant as “closed”.
“We have customers calling to ask why we are closed, when in fact it is the delivery platform that is having a problem because of insufficient riders, ” he said.
Restaurant owner Chan Poh Lin, 55, said that because of the no dine-in restriction, she opted to cook less and wait for orders to come in before preparing the food.
“I just prepare a small pot that can cater to 15 customers. It is for people who come personally to buy the food.
“When customers call to place their orders, I will then prepare a fresh pot of the dish for the delivery riders to collect, ” she said.
Chan said she had to modify her approach and adapt to the changes to keep her business afloat.
“We cannot complain and must strive hard to overcome this situation, ” she said.
Restaurateur K. Kanna, 53, said the majority of restaurants had changed their business model to takeaways.
The owner of Restaurant Vasagaie in Taman Teluk Pulai said most orders would be fulfilled through delivery riders while customers who live within a radius of 5km would usually come personally to order takeaways.
“We have become more resilient and have adapted and refined our business, ” he added.
Food delivery rider Nasrul Nizar Muhammad, 22, who travels a radius of 10km from Bandar Bukit Tinggi every day, said he handled 35 orders on average daily.
Klang Municipal Council president Dr Ahmad Fadzli Ahmad Tajuddin is glad that most food outlets have adapted to the SOP.
“Besides ensuring physical distancing is observed, customers’ body temperature, names and phone numbers must be recorded to allow contact tracing, ” he said.
He added that high standards of cleanliness, including frequent cleaning, must be maintained.
“It is all about building trust and businesses must have high standards of hygiene.
“Food takeaway is the new normal and it will be better if this continues, ” he said.