SINGAPORE - Food and beverage (F&B) operators scrambled to reorganise reservations and cancel orders from suppliers, after the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 announced that dining in at eateries is on track to resume only from June 21.
Many had already started taking reservations in anticipation of the dining-in ban lifting the day after June 13, when some tightened restrictions under phase two will ease up - including raising the cap on social gatherings from two to five.
Since the start of this week, Cantonese restaurant Yan at the National Gallery had received 30 reservations for an average group size of four to five people for dine-in next week.
Following the announcement on Thursday, they received five calls to make changes to their reservations.
Similarly, Spanish restaurant Asador Singapore in Joo Chiat opened up reservations on June 8, and saw more than 40 reservations till the end of June for an average group size of two to four.
The restaurant said most customers have been understanding about pushing back their reservations till after June 21.
But others anticipate an uphill climb, even after dining in resumes.
On Thursday, Restaurant Gaig, a Catalan eatery in Stanley Street, saw some reservations made for dates after June 21.
"However, we are not seeing the same strong response as last year after phase two was announced," said restaurant director Nuria Gibert.
"The tentative opening date is on a Monday, and the Central Business District is empty since everybody is (still) working from home... we will face a very hard month," she added.
Fixed costs such as manpower and rental continue to be a drain on F&B operators as well.
Mr Andrew Kwan, president of the Restaurant Association of Singapore, said members have shared that the "weekly burn rates to cover manpower and rentals alone range from a few thousand to over half a million dollars".
"Every additional day of low-to-no revenues will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back," he added.
The extension of 50 per cent wage subsidies for local workers under the Jobs Support Scheme for the period until June 20, and the provision of 10 per cent support between June 21 and 30 is "much appreciated", Mr Kwan said.
All restaurants contacted by The Straits Times will continue doing takeaways and deliveries to tide them over.
During a press conference on Thursday (June 10), Finance Minister Lawrence Wong urged F&B businesses to make use of the additional one week to go through their processes and protocols, such as ensuring that they comply with safe distancing rules and have good ventilation.
In preparation, Yan has installed air purifiers, which are used to disinfect the entire restaurant on a daily basis after operating hours.
Meanwhile, the il Lido Group, which operates eateries such as Amo, Braci and Gemma, will be focusing on "kicking everything back into gear for reopening and will continue to do so over the next week," said Mr Beppe de Vito, the group's restaurateur-chef.
Four of the group's seven eateries did not operate during the period of heightened alert.
He added that the group is "amping up" marketing efforts and working on special collaborative menus for its customers.
The task force had also announced that mandatory fast and easy testing (FET) for Covid-19 will start from July for those working at dine-in F&B establishments.
All workers will have to undergo regular testing, regardless of their vaccination status, and the Government will cover the cost of these tests for the next three months.
Mr de Vito said it was a sensible decision, given that those in the hospitality industry interact with many people on a daily basis.
"It is a process that we support, especially if it means we can actively curb the cases and prevent closing our doors again for a third time," he said.
Ms Gibert of Restaurant Gaig mirrors his sentiments.
"Of course it will be extra costs for us after three months, but I would rather pay for those tests than see dining in stop again. It will kill the industry," she said.
Some are also hoping that the F&B industry gets priority access for vaccinations.
Dr Martin Bem, founder and managing director, of LeVeL33 microbrewery and restaurant said: "Frequent testing will give everybody an additional sense of security, but as F&B workers are now considered front-liners, would it not make sense to vaccinate them as well? The combination of vaccinations and testing would be the best solution in my view."