Restaurant owners more confident of enforcing Covid-19 rules, welcome return of dining in

Most said that more than a year of working amid the pandemic has made it easier to keep within the rules.
Most said that more than a year of working amid the pandemic has made it easier to keep within the rules.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Restaurant owners are confident of enforcing Covid-19 measures when dining in is allowed from Monday (June 21), but some say they will deploy fewer staff because of the cap of two patrons per table.

Most said that more than a year of working amid the pandemic has made it easier to keep within the rules.

Mr Bjorn Shen, chef and owner of Small's, a pizza omakase restaurant, was confident his staff would be able to explain the need for Covid-19 measures to diners who flout them.

"As much as we have to impose the rules, we also have to be hospitable, and striking that balance can be challenging.

"We have a general manager who guides staff (who don't speak English as their first language) on how to communicate with diners firmly but kindly," he said.

Diners are also more used to rules such as putting on their masks when going to the toilet, added Mr Shen.

Mr Vincent Tan, store manager of New Korat Mookata, said his staff, who are now familiar with the rules, are better able to spot errant diners.

"Things like safe distancing and wearing a mask when not eating have not changed since Covid-19 started," he said.

At Eng's Wantan Noodle, which typically can hold up to 40 patrons when groups of five were allowed to dine in, its chief executive Thomas Hong said he expects that number to be halved when the new rule kicks in.

With fewer diners per table, he plans to reduce staff numbers from at least four at an outlet to three.

"The staff will rotate, they don't have to work every day. If the store is not very big, and the place is overstaffed, it doesn't look very nice," said Mr Hong.

At eateries such as Bangkok Jam, Typhoon Cafe and Suki-ya, only full-time staff will be called back to work.

"Staff will be reduced from eight to nine per restaurant to around six," said Mrs Bernadette Giam, director of corporate affairs and human resources at Creative Eateries, which owns those restaurants.

She added that they will also be cutting down the amount of food ordered to reduce food wastage.

Many owners, such as Mr Tan from New Korat Mookata, are looking forward to Monday. He said he felt "enormous relief" when the lift on the ban on dining in was announced on Friday.

His eatery was closed for the past month because of the difficulties in arranging takeaway for Mookata, which is a form of Thai barbecue.

"Even with fewer customers, it's better than nothing because we're still paying rent," said Mr Tan.