Lifeline for eatery operators

Back in business: Eateries are seeing more CNY reunion dinner bookings compared to two years ago. — ONG SOON HIN /The Star

 PETALING JAYA: The easing of restrictions on travel and reunion dinners to usher in the coming Chinese New Year (celebrations is seen as a welcome lifeline for eateries, say restaurant operators.Loon Sing Group general manager Eric Lee said his restaurants began receiving inquiries for reunion dinner packages about a month ago in anticipation that families would be allowed to travel and gather for the traditional new year’s eve meal.

“We are almost fully booked. It is a stark comparison to when we had zero bookings owing to the strict movement control order last year,” he said when contacted yesterday.

He added that prior to the pandemic, most eateries would have been fully booked for reunion dinners two months before Chinese New Year.

“We don’t expect to see business returning to what it was like before 2020, but it is still better than nothing,” he said.

Lee noted that were still those such as the elderly and others who couldn’t enter the restaurants.

“Some of them can’t get vaccinated owing to their age or health, so they can only hold their dinner gatherings at home,” he said.

Loon Sing has five outlets in Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Johor.Pan Malaysia Koo Soo Restaurants and Chefs Association vice-president Datuk Ringo Kaw said restaurant operators would benefit from the easing of restrictions, but not significantly.

“Some of our members are barely surviving. The move will help us but only slightly,” he said.

He said this was because not all families would want to hold their reunion dinners at restaurants.

“There are those who are still cautious and will stay home for their dinner gathering.

“Also, online takeaways have become quite popular among some families who prefer to prepare their own food,” he added.

On Sunday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the Chinese New Year standard operating procedure (SOP) would be slightly eased compared with last year as many people had received their Covid-19 vaccination.

Although open house festivities are still prohibited, families can travel home to see their families and have the reunion dinner to usher in the lunar new year.

Last year, apart from banning open houses, a strict lockdown was imposed which only allowed people to move within a certain radius for the reunion dinner.

Meanwhile, there are families looking forward to the “balik kampung” rush for their family reunion dinners.

Rachel Tan, 35, from Subang Jaya, said she was happy to be able to travel back to Johor Baru so that she could enjoy the reunion dinner with her family.

“I am looking forward to the trip as my younger sister and I did not go back for the gathering last year,” the sales manager said when contacted.

Another person looking forward to the family gathering is May Lee, 31, from Cheras.

“Whatever happens, we are planning to have a family reunion dinner this year after missing out on it last year,” she said.

“There is also an added sense of safety to hold such gatherings now as almost all Malaysians are fully vaccinated.”

As an added precaution, she said the dinner would only be held if all family members had received their vaccine booster shots.

The marketing executive said the family planned to hold their reunion dinner in Selangor, where her aged parents live.

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