New Covid-19 dining-in rule draws families, but some groups are turned away for not meeting criterion

A family of five dining in at a restaurant at Great World City on Nov 10, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
A family dining in at a restaurant at Great World City on Nov 10, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Some families took the opportunity to eat together in restaurants as the new dining-in rule for households kicked in on Wednesday (Nov 10).

But one restaurant also had to turn away groups that did not meet the new criterion.

From Wednesday, up to five fully vaccinated people from the same household are allowed to dine at the same table at food and beverage (F&B) establishments.

Before the rule was eased, not being able to share food or take care of younger children across split tables had made dining out difficult, families said.

Hawker centres and coffee shops are not part of this easing for now, as they are unable to check diners' details, but the authorities are prepared to include them once additional control measures are put in place.

The maximum group size for dining for those not from the same household remains at two.

When The Straits Times visited shopping centres Tampines Mall and Tampines 1 at around 11am on Wednesday, some families could be seen walking around or waiting to enter restaurants, although the malls were not crowded.

Among them was Ms Joan Sin, 40, who was in Tampines Mall to have lunch at sushi chain Genki Sushi with her husband and her 10-year-old daughter.

Ms Sin, who works in communications, said: "Before this rule, we didn't really eat out because we had to sit apart; it was quite hard to enjoy. Since my daughter does not have school today, we thought we should take the chance and go out for a meal together."

She added that she hopes to be able to eat out with her extended family members soon for a proper reunion.

Nex shopping mall in Serangoon was crowded at lunchtime, with many families seen dining in restaurants.

There were queues at popular restaurants such as Collin's, Swensen's and Canton Paradise.

A family of five dining in during lunchtime at Canton Paradise in Nex mall on Nov 10, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
A group of three checking with a staff on entry into Collin's Gastro Dining in Nex mall on Nov 10, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Finishing her lunch at Canton Paradise was procurement assistant manager Leow Seow Wee, who was with her husband, her seven-year-old son, her mother-in-law and her domestic helper.

"It is very nice to be out again with the whole household. When we saw the news, my husband said he wanted to come out for a meal," Ms Leow, 45, said. She added that the family stopped dining out often as some restaurants would seat the family far apart to prevent them from intermingling.

She does not mind having to show her identity card for checks, but had to remind her helper to have her work permit with her.

Meanwhile, restaurants are hopeful that the easing of restrictions would draw more customers, especially during weekends.

Logistics issues, such as having to rearrange seating, will be slightly tricky, but they are adapting well, F&B outlets said.

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The manager of iSteaks at Tampines 1, Mr Min Ko Ko, said the outlet was already checking diners' addresses before the easing of restrictions when they came in groups of more than two people to ensure that they were not breaking safe management rules.

While the restaurant was still mostly empty around lunchtime, Mr Min said he is expecting a larger dinner crowd, and more patrons over the weekend.

He said: "In the past, we had to seat families far apart because we didn't want them to intermingle. When we told families this, some decided not to eat here. Now that they can sit together and enjoy time as a family, more people may come back."

Ms Bernadette Gutierrez, the manager at PastaMania in Tampines Mall, said the outlet had to reorganise seating arrangements for varying group sizes on Tuesday night.

She said: "We try to check diners' address with the Singpass app because some of them may not want to show their identity cards or may not bring them out. With young children, we do try to exercise some flexibility."

Restaurants are hopeful that the easing of restrictions will draw more customers, especially during weekends. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
A group of people checking with a staff on entry into Genki Sushi in Nex mall on Nov 10, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

But Indian restaurant Pavilion Banana Leaf manager Bimaljit Kaur said she has already encountered some diners trying to break the rules.

A group of five colleagues had turned up at the Nex outlet claiming that they were from the same household, but could not show proof. They ended up taking away their food.

Another group of three friends were also turned away.

Ms Kaur said: "We have to follow the rules, and turn them away if they don't comply. We don't want to take the risk. If there are Covid-19 cases, it will be my responsibility."

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