Food outlets struggling to stay afloat in pandemic

SEREMBAN: Operators of eateries and coffee shops here are trying to ensure their businesses can continue to run during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many shops have reduced their opening hours due to a lack of customers, while those working in the Klang Valley could not return here for meals due to the conditional movement control order (MCO).

The operators are also hoping banks can provide soft loans to help them stay afloat as they are running low on savings.

Negri Sembilan Restaurant Operators and Cooks Association chairman Chong Foot Heng said business started to improve in July but it had been sluggish since the third wave of Covid-19 began.

“We are struggling, really struggling. Some of our members have been forced to cut the staff’s salaries, ” he said.

Chong said more operators were now offering their services online and had engaged people to deliver orders.

“I fear to think what will happen if they do not go to the customer instead of waiting for the customer to come to them, ” he added.

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) secretary-general T. Thanabalan hoped that banks would provide them with soft loans.

“Many of us need help as the last time the government gave financial aid under a special relief fund, it did not include us, ” he claimed.

Thanabalan, who runs the famous Curry Leaf Restaurant here and another in Kuala Lumpur, said business for most Primas members had touched 70% to what it was pre-Covid 19 by July.

But the third wave of the pandemic has been devastating.

“We are fortunate to have engaged food delivery companies to work with us. We have a database of our customers and will send them weekly special menus just to keep going, ” he said.

Negri Sembilan Coffee Shop, Bar, Restaurant and Hotel Keepers’ Association president Lau Yong King said business was down by half.

“Fewer customers are coming in after the conditional MCO was imposed in the Klang Valley as they are not able to travel back to Seremban and dine out, ” he said.

Some operators have also resorted to closing on more days during the week to cut overheads.

“None of them have closed shop for good, but they are at their wits’ end. We hope this pandemic will go away soon so that things can return to normal, ” he said.

Primas member Kannan Govindasamy said he had been operating at a loss since March.

“This is really painful as I am running out of my savings.

“There is hardly any business after 6pm for the past few months and this has hurt me badly, ” he said.

Kannan, who has been running the Ooty Restaurant in the city centre here for 16 years, also needs to pay his seven employees.

“We have done everything to attract patrons but they fear coming out. And Seremban has been declared a red zone.

“We pray that the government will be able to source the vaccine quickly, “ he added.

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