Eateries remain optimistic as vaccination rate increases

PETALING JAYA: Despite extending operating and dine-in hours for those fully vaccinated, eateries are not seeing an increase in customers.

Malaysia-Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors Association president Wong Teu Hoon said this extension has resulted in more coffeeshop operators reopening their businesses.

“Business is still slow and because the current standard operating procedure limits the number of tables in the premises, most businesses have only recovered about 50% of their usual income.

“This is, however, better than the returns during the movement control order,” said Wong.

He noted that fully vaccinated customers were still sitting on the fence when it came to dining in as many were still opting for takeaways.

Wong said there were also coffeeshop owners who had opted not to reopen for dine-ins as they were unsure if they could comply with the strict SOP.

He said some had related encounters with customers who insisted on dining in even though they were not fully vaccinated.

“A lack of manpower is also a reason why these operators shy away from providing dining-in service.

“A lapse in checking customers’ app (MySejahtera) may result in some customers going unchecked,” added Wong.

He noted although there were frequent SOP compliance checks by the authorities in coffeeshops, there have been no untoward incidents to date.

“We do believe that business will pick up in time and we hope the government will speed up the booster shots for the elderly to not only increase their safety but also increase their willingness to dine in,” said Wong.

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association deputy president C. Krishnan said although eateries can resume operations till 12am, most Indian restaurant operators opted to close by 10pm.

“This is primarily due to a lack of manpower as a result of the extended MCO since the start of the pandemic.

“The existing staff are unable to cope with the sudden influx of customers so they have stuck to operating until 10pm.

“About 30% of our restaurants have yet to reopen for dine-in as they have chosen to wait and see before making their decision,” said Krishnan.

He added that there were also instances of patrons not being cooperative towards the staff.

“On a bad day, such a situation can land us in big trouble if there is an inspection from the authorities,” he said.

Krishnan also urged for a more practical approach to the SOP, allowing families or groups of fully vaccinated individuals to sit together while dining in.

Pan Malaysia Koo Soo Restaurants and Chefs Association vice-president Datuk Ringo Kaw said most customers who chose to dine in were celebrating events.

“This relaxation has allowed members of the public to celebrate either birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions at restaurants while the others have continued to take away food.

“Operators have also gone above and beyond to prioritise the safety of customers dining in, with some even requiring their employees to undergo Covid-19 self tests on a weekly basis,” said Kaw.

He added that although the turnout was positive, it would take a while before operations returned to pre-MCO levels.

“The main reason is that we are limited to a one-third capacity of the restaurant.

“In light of this, we also encourage food and beverage operators to adapt towards providing delivery services as this is the new normal,” he said.

Kaw said they expect the number of dine-in customers to increase once the total vaccination rate rises.

“Hopefully, this will raise the confidence level of the public as well,” he said.

Kopitiam RTP owner Melvyn Ramayah said although business was better compared to the MCO period, it could not compare with earnings prior to the pandemic.

“Business has been slow but our customers are gradually returning to dine in.

“Office workers have also begun returning, but there is still a healthy number of patrons who choose to take away their meals,” he said.

Curry mee store operator Nicholas Tham said he received an optimistic response from his regular patrons despite only reopening last week.

“Business during the MCO was bad even for takeaways so I chose to cease operating for that period of time.

“I also ceased operating as my children had yet to be vaccinated. I did not want to take any risks,” he said.

Tham added that since reopening, several customers still preferred to take away food.

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