Craving for a better tomorrow

SOP meals: A worker serving lunch to customers at a big capacity Chinese restaurant in George Town. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: With no wedding dinners or major celebrations over the past year and a half, restaurant operators are hoping that the situation will improve before the year ends.

The end of year is when traditionally, many Chinese couples like to hold their wedding banquet. It coincides with the long year-end school holidays.

These banquets are usually held for hundreds of diners, with 10 to a table.

Datuk H’ng Ban Choon, whose banquet hall can accommodate 1,000 people, has not received any bookings from hopeful couples for year-end celebrations.

“We currently have 30 bookings postponed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of these couples even have children already. They held a simple wedding ceremony and started their family.

“They have not cancelled their bookings as they still hope to hold a proper wedding dinner once the pandemic is over.

“So, we do not expect new bookings right now. Even if we do reopen after the SOP is laid out, we will only cater to 30% of our capacity which is 300 guests.

“We hope the situation can improve in the days to come,” he said.

H’ng has 50 staff members and 70% of them are fully vaccinated, while the rest are still waiting for their second dose.

“Even right now when we serve customers, we will ensure they are fully vaccinated. When we reopen for banquets, we will ensure the same,” he said.

Loke Poh Chye, who runs a restaurant that can cater to 300 people, said despite not having any bookings, he was hopeful that there would be way more celebrations next year.

“So many weddings and functions have been postponed these past two years. I am sure that many will want to hold functions when it is allowed.

“All my staff are fully vaccinated and for now, we just cater to a small number of people for dine-in. When we do reopen for banquets, we will follow the set SOP,” he said.

Another local popular restaurant, which offers space for up to 600 guests, has also not received any bookings for the year-end.

“There are no bookings for functions or weddings for now. We have space for 60 tables to cater to 600 guests, which is a large crowd.

“Now, due to the one-metre physical distancing rule, it will be difficult to cater to large crowds,” said a representative.

Koo Soo Kwong Choon Tong Restaurant and Teahouse Association chairman Vinah Yee said there were no bookings for the end of the year as well as next year because of uncertainty.

“Right now, only two are allowed to a table and if the tables are bigger, we have been told to halve the number of seats.

“No one has reached out to us to book as times are uncertain as normally, when you book a banquet, you have to pay a deposit.

“Many have lost their deposits due to the pandemic as their only other option is to extend it and wait for a time when they can hold the dinner,” she said.

“With physical distancing, we can only place five or six to a table, which means there is not enough space to cater to all the guests. Our restaurants offer meals that can only be eaten in large groups.

“Certain dishes are prepared for a large number of people, like a duck dish with fillings and cannot be cooked in small portions,” she said.

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