Haze taking its toll on eateries in Malaysia but online food delivery firms enjoy brisk business

Malaysia's skyline is blanketed by haze in Kuala Lumpur, on Sept 18, 2019.
Malaysia's skyline is blanketed by haze in Kuala Lumpur, on Sept 18, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - While restaurants and traders in Malaysia are suffering from the haze, online food delivery companies are laughing all the way to the bank.

One of Penang's most famous nasi kandar outlets, Nasi Kandar Line Clear, was among those that saw a drastic drop in customers because of the haze.

The restaurant in Penang Road, which is usually crowded, was a sight of empty chairs and tables, with only a few customers.

"It's almost 11am and we still haven't had our usual customers coming in. They are the ones making a beeline for our restaurant.

"People are heeding the warnings by state authorities, and are opting for takeaways and home cooking, which is definitely bad for our business," said operator Sahubar Ali Inachina Mohd Hanibah on Thursday (Sept 19).

The owner of Weld Quay Oo Qio dessert stall also claimed that he suffered a 40 per cent drop in business due to the haze.

Mr Koay Beng Tatt, 36, who inherited the business from his grandfather, said only a few regular customers have been patronising his stall lately.

"My customers come here to have their dessert under the shady tree and motorcyclists would order takeaways.

"It is a common sight to see people lining up here for their favourite dessert, especially the Oh Kio dessert, also known as Aiyu Jelly.

 
 
 
 

"But now with the haze, most people are seeking shelter indoors," said Mr Koay, who was waiting for customers at his stall on Thursday.

Meanwhile, online food delivery companies are seeing brisk business, with one, DeliverEat, seeing a surge of 40 per cent in daily orders.

"We have daily meal orders of 8,000, but this has now increased to more than 11,000 over the last few days.

"People are health-conscious and are not taking any chances.

"Furthermore, it is convenient to order out," said its co-founder Leong Shir Mein.

Ms Leong also said she ensures that her riders are always wearing their face masks during their delivery rounds.

A check by The Star also saw trishaw pedallers in Penang Road sleeping on the seats while waiting for customers.

"On clear days, the number of customers is already close to zero," said one of them, who refused to be named.

"Now with the haze, it is totally zero customer... We have spent the past few days waiting for a miracle." 

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the haze would definitely have an impact on the tourism industry.

 

"Flight cancellations or diverted flights will bring inconvenience to tourists and also our own people who are coming back or going out.

"For the industry, they are also concerned about whether consignments can be delivered on time for use in productions.

"Hopefully, the haze problem will go away as soon as possible. The longer it drags, the more the impact; more losses incurred," he said at a press conference after a mass wedding ceremony at Penang National Registration Department on Thursday.

The haze situation in the state showed improvements on Thursday. According to the Department of Environment, Balik Pulau and Minden, with Air Pollutant Index (API) readings of 234 and 205 respectively at 1am, improved to 162 and 141 by 2pm.

Seberang Jaya and Seberang Prai also recorded a drop in API readings from 160 and 157 respectively to 119 and 104.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is good, while 51 to 100 is moderate, 101 to 200 is unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy, and 301 and above hazardous.