Dining in for groups of 5 resumes, S'poreans welcome chance to eat with friends, family at the same table

A group of five friends having breakfast at Hong Lim Food Centre after their morning walk on July 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
People dine at an eatery in Chinatown Point on July 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
People having breakfast at Albert Centre market and food centre on July 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - A pre-lunch crowd of mostly retirees and elderly folk was observed making full use of the five-person dining in rule that kicked in on Monday (July 12).

Many welcomed the easing of restrictions after almost three weeks of being limited by a cap of two people per table at eateries. The cap lasted from June 21 to Sunday.

Almost all tables were occupied at the Foodfare @ AMK Hub foodcourt by noon on Monday, with several groups comprising four or five people.

"We contacted one another as soon as we heard we could go out together again," said Ms Lai Nee Chin, 56, a housewife, who was with her two sisters and brother-in-law.

"I think the Government took the right pace in easing restrictions because now it's ramping up vaccinations so it makes sense that vaccinated people can meet up again while staying safe," added Ms Lai.

However, Mr Aok Pow Chong, 72, a retired technician who was also at the foodcourt with a group of four friends of similar age, said that rules could have been eased sooner.

"I think it was long overdue because the Government has had more than a year of experience in dealing with Covid-19 already, so it should have the confidence to manage the situation instead of splitting us up and making the economy suffer," said Mr Aow, who was looking forward to the five-person rule.

"We meet every week but that got put on hold because of the heightened alert," he added.

Other diners The Straits Times spoke to were looking forward to being able to eat out together with their families at the same table again.

"The key thing is now I can eat with my parents without any restrictive seating arrangement," said 34-year-old civil servant Jace Soh, who was having breakfast at Bukit Timah Food Centre.

"The three of us went out only once during the two-person dine in period, but one person had to sit alone, so it was quite inconvenient."

Two retirees who wanted to be known only as Mr and Mrs Sim, both 65, were at Kim San Leng Food Centre in Bishan with their young grandchildren, aged one and four. The couple made a similar case.

"It was inconvenient before. Today, we're very happy that we can eat together again," said Mr Sim.

"We feel that it's better for our family to eat together rather than splitting tables, especially as our grandchildren are young," his wife added.

SPH Brightcove Video
The group size limit for dining in increased back to five persons on July 12, as the easing of Covid-19 restrictions moves forward. Multimedia journalist Kimberly Jow speaks to diners, food stall owners and restaurant operators about the changes.
Almost all tables were occupied at the Foodfare @ AMK Hub food court by noon on July 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Mr Arthur Franco, 59, said he had already made dinner plans at a Lavender eatery with his wife and another couple.

"The fact that we can sit together is great," said Mr Franco, who works in real estate sales.

"When coffee shops reopened (on June 21), I already had three to four appointments there on the first day... even though it was limited to two people, it was still better than nothing," he said.

He added that "social gatherings are very important because people have been secluded".

Eateries and hawkers, however, reported different experiences.

Many restaurants and markets are closed on Mondays. Additionally, working from home remains the default.

People dine at the foodcourt in Ion Orchard on July 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Several hawkers ST spoke to noted that as it is the start of the week, business is generally slow.

"On Mondays, there are always fewer people, since the market is not open, but I think businesses will definitely see improvement because many people can dine in and sit together now," said Mr Tang Tee Ngow, 67, who runs a porridge stall with his wife in Bukit Timah Food Centre.

"We are hopeful there will be more people later this week because more people will go to the market too," added Mr Tang, who spoke in Mandarin.

However, Fun Toast cafe at Wisma Atria in Orchard said it saw a "non-stop flow of customers" on Monday.

"Business has improved, compared with the previous week, and food delivery orders are also increasing," said supervisor Remigio Orpilla, 42.

"Hopefully business will consistently improve from today onwards, but I cannot say for sure."

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