Restaurants slowly filling up as bookings trickle in after S'pore eases Covid-19 measures

Diners on the first day of reopening for dine-in at Black Marble restaurant in Holland Village on June 21, 2021.
Diners on the first day of reopening for dine-in at Black Marble restaurant in Holland Village on June 21, 2021.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - With the resumption of dining in for up to two people per table on Monday (June 21), restaurants are slowly filling up as bookings trickle in for the week ahead.

One-Michelin-starred Restaurant Labyrinth at Esplanade Mall, which reopens on Tuesday after closing for a month, initially had 30 per cent of its reservations cancelled or postponed when the new restrictions were announced last Friday.

The modern Singaporean restaurant's chef-owner Han Liguang said: "Reservations didn't flood in like last year. It was a slow and steady climb, but we are close to recovering the lost reservations."

The restaurant, which can seat 26 diners, is almost full for this week.

Dining in resumed on Monday for no more than two diners, instead of five as previously announced. The current limit could be raised to five diners by mid-July if the Covid-19 situation does not worsen.

Over at contemporary Indian restaurant Adda in Beach Road, bookings have also been slow to come in, and its chef Manjunath Mural expects more to stream in for the weekend.

He said customers remain cautious about dining in - a sentiment echoed by other food and beverage (F&B) operators, who highlight that response has been lukewarm and unlike post-circuit breaker last year, when eateries saw a surge in reservations for dining in.

Similarly, Ms Serene Ang, 44, founder of Foodtech F&B Ventures which runs mazesoba chain Menya Kokoro, observed a quiet Monday at the brand's three locations at Suntec City, 100 AM mall and Plaza Singapura.

She said: "We are far from being fully booked. There was no office crowd rush during lunch time, and we were able to do only one round of lunch. Previously, we could turn over two rounds of diners.

"I believe that there is general fatigue from constant takeaway and delivery orders. Dining in will pick up slowly and gradually."

While many F&B players remain focused on deliveries and takeaway orders, they also have to juggle cancellations and postponement of bookings, as well as amending bigger group bookings to no more than two people.

Others are taking additional steps to manage the dining experience.

All three restaurants under The Cicheti Group - Bar Cicheti in Jiak Chuan Road, Caffe Cicheti in Beach Road, and Cicheti in Kandahar Street - will seat larger groups from the same household farther away from one another.

The group's managing partner Ronald Kamiyama, 40, said: "As much as we would love to seat family members near one another, past experiences have shown us that people will still mingle. Due to this, we are unable to take any risks. This is to ensure the safety of everyone around."

The restaurants have 20 per cent less seating capacity now and are filling up fast, he added.

Ms Nuria Gibert, 35, director of Restaurant Gaig in Stanley Street, has also been advising guests that new booking capacities may be subject to change, pending further updates in July. The Central Business District, she added, remains quite empty as many continue to work from home.

At Spanish restaurant Pura Brasa in Tanjong Pagar, more of its "safe distancing bears" have been added to occupy empty tables and chairs, and ensure that diners adhere to the guidelines.


"Safe distancing bears" have been added to occupy empty tables and chairs at Spanish restaurant Pura Brasa in Tanjong Pagar. The restaurant is also serving complimentary amuse-bouche to all customers who dine-in. PHOTOS: PURA BRASA

The restaurant, along with others such as steakhouse Black Marble Singapore in Holland Village and Japanese restaurant Senshi Sushi & Grill in Outram Park, are about half-full for the week.

Mr Leong Sheen Jet, 28, co-founder of restaurants The Feather Blade in Tanjong Pagar Road and Rappu in Duxton Road, said reservations are almost full for both restaurants. The Feather Blade can seat 38 people, and Rappu 34. He said that most reservations made so far are for occasions such as anniversaries.

He said: "Ultimately, we will need to observe how the new measures will affect dine-ins this week, and make changes and improvements wherever necessary."