Eateries see more dining in over weekend before curbs start on Sept 27

Bookings for the weekend came in as soon as news of the tighter restrictions broke on Friday evening.
Bookings for the weekend came in as soon as news of the tighter restrictions broke on Friday evening.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE- More diners turned up at some eateries in Singapore over the weekend to satisfy their hunger for good food and good company before restrictions limiting group sizes kick in on Monday (Sept 27).

Four restaurateurs whom The Straits Times spoke to on Sunday said the higher traffic is mainly seen from those opting to dine in groups of more than two.

This comes after the multi-ministry task force announced on Friday that people will be allowed to gather in only groups of two as Singapore tightens restrictions to slow the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Under the new rules, eateries can take in up to only two fully vaccinated diners per group. Over the weekend, the limit is five fully inoculated individuals, under a ruling that kicked in six weeks ago.

The new measures will last a month from Monday, with the rules reviewed in two weeks and adjusted, depending on the community situation, the authorities said.

Mr G. Shanmugam, the owner of Bottoms Up in Telok Ayer, said crowds at his bar were noticeably larger over the weekend.

Mr Sheen Jet Leong, who owns the Rappu and The Feather Blade restaurants in Tanjong Pagar, said while both outlets are usually full over the weekends, the number of walk-in diners was at least 15 to 20 per cent more than usual.

Mr Anthony Yeoh, the owner of the Summer Hill restaurant in Clementi, said bookings for the weekend came in as soon as news of the tighter restrictions broke on Friday evening. "Some are groups of friends who had planned to meet up later this month, while others are regulars and walk-ins," he noted.

Mr Yeoh also experienced a surge in the number of larger takeaway orders, and expects this to continue in the coming weeks since families can eat together only at home.

To help meet demand, he rented a car on Friday night so staff could make deliveries in case it was difficult to get a rider from the food delivery platforms.

He said: "When the restrictions change, takeaway demand also changes. The entire ecosystem needs time to meet those changes, and sometimes we face difficulties in getting a rider. For us, it's a big enough issue to rent a car as backup because our average takeaway order is $200-$500 for large groups."

Mr Cedric Tang, the owner of Ka-Soh Restaurants serving Chinese food in Outram and Greenwood, estimated a 20 to 30 per cent boost in the number of diners over the weekend.

Takeaway orders also became larger, he said. Usually, each order is between $80 and $90. But over the weekend, there were more orders of between $160 and $180 each.

"A lot of our customers are families with elderly (members), so they could be taking their own precautions by eating at home after the announcement. But others could be groups who are gathering at home," Mr Tang added.

In announcing the restrictions last Friday, the authorities said the number of daily Covid-19 cases in Singapore could double to 3,200 by next week if the current trend continues. On Saturday, 1,443 new cases were reported.

The Straits Times reported on Saturday that the slew of changes to the safe management measures for food and beverage (F&B) operators has taken a toll on them.

They cited challenges such as gauging the quantity of ingredients to order, and allocating adequate manpower to enforce various safety restrictions.

For instance, the country last eased restrictions six weeks ago, when fully vaccinated individuals were allowed to dine at eateries in groups of up to five. Another set of earlier rules disallowed completely dining in all establishments.

Mr Shanmugam said outlets like his, which is mainly a bar, where demand for delivery services is not as high as restaurants, would find it challenging to cope over the next month.

"The subsidies help but I hope there will be fewer closures after this period," he said.


Diners in larger groups in an eatery at Bedok Mall on Sept 26, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Businesses such as F&B outlets and retailers will receive about $650 million in wage subsidies, rental waivers and other forms of support to help them cope with the tightened Covid-19 curbs .

Other operators like Mr Yeoh are trying to take things in their stride.

He had in the early days of the pandemic expected regulations on permitted group sizes to change, and swopped the restaurant's original tables with square ones.

"This makes it modular and allows us to reconfigure the seating arrangement as and when it's needed," he said.