More opting for earlier reunion dinners

Logistics manager Mark Yee (far right) and his family having their reunion dinner at Uncle Leong Seafood in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh last night. He said they chose to have the traditional dinner early as the zi char restaurant is less crowded, and his fami
Logistics manager Mark Yee (far right) and his family having their reunion dinner at Uncle Leong Seafood in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh last night. He said they chose to have the traditional dinner early as the zi char restaurant is less crowded, and his family will be flying off to Phuket today.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Eateries report rise; reasons cited include holiday plans, avoiding clash with other family dinners

The Year of the Rooster may not be here yet, but for many early birds, celebrations are already under way.

Over the past fortnight, zi char eateries and restaurants have seen more customers opting for early Chinese New Year reunion dinners.

Common reasons include wanting to go away on holiday during the long weekend, and wishing to have separate reunion dinners with different sides of the family.

Traditionally, the reunion dinner, a time when families gather to usher in the new year, takes place on the eve of Chinese New Year, which falls on Friday, Jan 27, this year.

Most of the 12 zi char eateries The Straits Times spoke to said they have had more people having reunion dinners earlier, compared with the same period last year.

 

Mellben Seafood's Toa Payoh outlet has seen a 20 per cent increase. After receiving more inquiries from customers, it launched its yusheng a week earlier last Friday.

One of its diners on Tuesday was civil servant Daniel Ng, 41, who was there with 11 relatives. He said: "Everyone has their own commitments... The best way to avoid a clash is to (have the reunion dinner) earlier."

At Uncle Leong Seafood last night, there were already some families and companies tossing yusheng.

Among them was logistics manager Mark Yee, 38, who was there with his family. He said: "It's less crowded now, and we have holiday plans. We're going off to Phuket on Jan 26."

Ah Orh Seafood Restaurant has seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of people having early reunion dinners compared with last year.

One customer, who wished to be known only as Ms Wong, had a reunion dinner with six family members last Saturday.

Said the 29-year-old private tutor, who will be on holiday in Myanmar over the long weekend: "We don't really like moving around during the Chinese New Year period because it's crowded everywhere."

She added: "Our main (aim) was just to eat with our grandmother. It's the right (group of) people, so we can do it any day, it doesn't have to be the day on the calendar that tells you to celebrate."

Coffee shops, too, have seen an increase compared with last year.

Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant & Bar-Owners Association, which represents more than 300 coffee shops, said there has been an increase of more than 20 per cent. Said its chairman Lee Khia Foo, 55: "You eat earlier, (so) you can get a restaurant seat."

Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, which has about 400 coffee shops, has seen a 10 per cent to 15 per cent increase.

Its chairman Hong Poh Hin, 69, said: "This year, the economy is not very good. Customers' budgets are a bit lower, so probably they are 'downgrading' from restaurants to coffee shops. Instead of spending more than $1,000 at a restaurant, they spend $500 to $600 at a coffee shop."

Even so, restaurants, too, have been reporting higher numbers.

Moi Lum Restaurant, which has been fully booked since December, has seen a 5 per cent increase, attributing this to how customers could not find seats at a later date.

Yan Palace Restaurant, fully booked since November, has also noticed an upward trend.

Crystal Jade has seen a 10 per cent increase in bookings across all its restaurants during the festive period. Said its spokesman: "We have many regular customers who have made early bookings with us since (the) end of last year."

•Additional reporting by Raynold Toh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline 'More opting for earlier reunion dinners'. Print Edition | Subscribe