GEORGE TOWN: While the government looks into rules and regulations, food and beverage operators across Malaysia are pleading with the rakyat to take care of themselves and follow the standard operating procedure.
In Penang, F&B operators fear that another round of the MCO here could lead to the collapse of the sector, with small businesses likely to be the most affected.
Roti canai seller Mohamed Ali Abdul, 48, said if the MCO was implemented again, it would not only cause hardship to him but also to his 10 workers.
“As it is, our business has dwindled as people are scared to eat out. If the government declares another MCO, I fear I have to close for good this time, ” he said at his stall in Jalan Sri Bahari.
Mohamed Ali, who has been operating here for four years, said business improved when the first MCO last year was lifted but things went downhill again early this year although dine-ins were allowed.
“Most of my customers prefer to have their food at the stall as roti canai is best eaten hot and fresh.
“A big chunk of my income and revenue comes from customers who dine in. We can’t fully depend on takeaways; our food is best eaten fresh, ” he said.
Meanwhile, Mohd Irwan Noor Azenan said as a food operator, he made sure hygiene was maintained.
“If we don’t want another MCO, we must observe good hygiene practices and adhere to the SOP, ” he said at his stall in Tanjung Tokong.
The 39-year-old entrepreneur urged everyone, including food operators and customers, to do their part to win the battle against Covid-19.
Fried noodle seller Mohammed Azlan Hyder Ali, 38, is worried that he would not be able to cope if another MCO was implemented.
He said business has been bad as the number of customers had dropped drastically.
“I still do takeaways but most customers prefer to dine at my stall.
“I sincerely plead to the public to always be alert and continue following the SOP strictly, ” said Mohammed Azlan, who runs the 80-year-old family business in Sungai Pinang, Jelutong.
In Selangor, Jason Wong, owner of the Boon Min Kee restaurant which sells chicken rice, said the onus is on all Malaysians to flatten the curve.
“We should stay home as much as possible and avoid crowded places.
“The MCO keeps us safe for now as the Covid-19 situation is quite bad. We have customers who still insist on dining in and who scold us for not allowing them to do so.
“But it is our responsibility to comply with the SOP so that everyone is safe. We have no choice but to reject customers who refuse to comply, ” he said.
Restaurateur C. Krishnan called on Malaysians to take the SOP seriously, noting that many businesses have shut down.
“This is something that must be done if we want to go back to life like before.
“We must obey the SOP as that is going to be the long-term solution, ” he said, adding that restaurant workers, especially those in red zones, should be vaccinated soon to provide safe services to the public.
Shanmugam Kuppusamy, owner of Restoran Saguntala in Klang and also secretary of the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association, said that the pandemic has severely affected the sector, including in terms of rental, salaries and loan repayments.
With no dine-in allowed, he said sales have dropped to about 20% to 30% of what they used to be.
Ravindran Arnasalam, owner of Chola Kitchen, had to close down his new branch in Kuala Lumpur after the MCO last year.
As such, he said he has suffered losses of RM350,000 to date, noting that he still has to service the loan he took out for the expansion.
To ensure a sustainable business environment, he said both the government and the people need to adhere to the SOP, with no exceptions.
Rina Palawati, who runs her Satti Sorru stall selling claypot dishes in a coffee shop, also urged the public to comply with the SOP to bring down infection rates.
She said the MCO has led to her business dropping by about a third.
Thamudran M. Krishnan, owner of LOL Cafe in Sentul that sells western and local cuisine, said failure to follow the SOP creates trouble for both customers and restaurants.
“If both sides do not follow the SOP, we will be fined, ” he said, adding that all should prioritise public health.
Customers, he added, have to be mindful of physical distancing and avoid touching or hugging as seen in some cafes in Kuala Lumpur.
Datuk Seri Garry Chua, who heads the F&B division of the Malaysia Retail Chain Association, said the number of cases emerging from restaurants is quite small and is blown out of proportion whenever there is such a case.
“There are some restaurants where it can be quite crowded, but most eateries, especially those in malls, are quite orderly, ” he said.
Although there had been several instances where the SOP was not adhered to, he said most restaurants are following the rules the best they can.
“The SOP must be drawn up carefully and the rakyat must be disciplined in following it.
“The SOP must be planned and implemented in a clever, balanced way, or else retail and F&B outlets will die before the Covid-19 pandemic ends, ” he said.
In the event a drastic measure is necessary, Chua said there must be tight controls across the board so that there are no “pockets” where there is a lax adherence to the SOP.