More families opting to eat out for New Year reunion dinners

MORE and more families are opting to eat out for the all-important Chinese New Year (CNY) reunion dinner in recent years, while some have been making it an annual practice for some time.

Dining out offers them convenience in various forms, including the time and effort needed to prepare and clean up after the meal.

StarMetro speaks to several families to discover their CNY reunion dinner traditions, and also several hotels and restaurant operators to find out how they cope with their operations during this busy festive season.

The Cheong family has made it a tradition to eat out for the CNY reunion dinner for more than two decades.

“As far as I can remember, we’ve been eating out as far back as the late 1980s,” said Joseph Cheong, a 25-year-old laywer.

“Our reunion dinner would also usually include my grandaunt’s family which would mean about 20 people in all,” he said.

Cheong said his family was close-knit family and every member would endeavour to get together for the all-important occasion despite their respective commitments.

“There are two restaurants we usually frequent for the reunion dinner — the Klang Executive Club’s Chinese restaurant or Taman Rashna Restaurant.

“Occasionally, we do make reservations at the Overseas Restaurant in Subang Jaya,” said the Klang resident, adding that their reservations are usually made three months in advance to ensure availability.

The Cheongs eat out for the convenience.

“My parents live and work across the Causeway, and usually come back from Singapore one day before the reunion dinner,” Cheong said.

“It would be difficult and rather hectic for my mum to cope with cooking for our family, let alone the extended family.

“However, we usually cook and dine at home on the first day of the new year, which is when we get to savour my mum’s home-cooked food.”

Cheong said it had been the norm for his 93-year-old grandmother to insist on footing the bill.

“Every reunion dinner means so much to her that the price increases do not quite bother her,” he said.

Businesswoman Doreen Chew from Subang Jaya started having CNY reunion dinners with her family in restaurants about six years ago.

“My mother used to cook at home for the family and it was my father who first suggested that we eat out, because there was just too much work involved in preparing the dinner,” said Chew.

Thus started the tradition of eating out on the eve of CNY for Chew and her family.

“We used to book two tables but because our family has grown, we now reserve three tables for the dinner,” she said.

Due to the festive season’s high demand for tables, Chew would make reservations two to three months in advance.

“I prefer the private rooms so the children can run around so I would book early to make sure my family is not disappointed,” she said.

Loke Wai Kong’s family also prefers eating out for convenience and logistics reasons.

“It would be a large group coming together for the reunion dinner every year, including my parents, parents-in-law, aunt’s extended family, sister’s family, and, sometimes, my uncle’s family.

“We usually occupy two, sometimes three tables. Eating out also saves us the hassle of food preparation and cleaning up,” said the 36-year-old marketing manager.

Loke said eating out for the reunion dinner had been an annual affair since he was a child.

It would usually be held in a restaurant in the Cheras area, where most of the family members reside, as they would adjourn to one of the homes for a chat and drinks afterwards.

“We’d usually go to different restaurants every year, with food taste being a preference,” Loke’s wife, Jessy Ooi, 32, said.

“While the price of eating out has gone up over time, it is something that we can’t avoid.

“We’d order the set menu, which offers a variety of dishes that are attractively priced in a package,” said the assistant marketing manager.

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