SINGAPORE - Restaurant owners and chefs welcome the clearer rules for dining in, as they gear up to check on customers' vaccination status before welcoming them.
Those The Straits Times spoke to said the new rules are clearer than the ones issued earlier.
Starting from Tuesday (Aug 10), groups of up to five people who are fully vaccinated, have recovered from or tested negative for Covid-19, can dine together at restaurants. Only two people, regardless of vaccination status, can eat together at hawker centres and coffee shops.
This contrasts with the rules that were in place before eating out was banned again on July 22.
Then, unvaccinated people could eat out alone or in pairs. Those fully vaccinated could be in groups of up to five. Members of the same household could dine out with unvaccinated children aged 12 or younger. But if they were from different households, children could not make up more than half the group.
It led to some food and beverage (F&B) operators, including McDonald's, Burger King and KFC, accepting only pairs of diners, without checks on vaccination status or the other details.
Ms Sabrina Goh, manager of Venue by Sebastian at Downtown Gallery in Shenton Way, said of the new rules: "These are better than the confusing combinations put out before."
Most of the restaurants contacted said they would use the TraceTogether app and the SafeEntry Gateway device to check diners' vaccination status.
Mr Shek Chi Kuen, general manager of Yan, a Chinese restaurant at the National Gallery, said: "Guests just need to tap their TraceTogether app or token on our SafeEntry device to prove their vaccination status. For those who do not have the app, we can also accept proof of their vaccination status on HealthHub. Customers without mobile phones can bring their vaccination cards, which are issued after the second dose."
Dr Martin Bem, founding managing director of LeVeL33, an urban microbrewery in Marina Bay Financial Centre, said: "Our host team is trained and briefed to check every single diner, not only for his or her vaccination status but also the vaccination details on a refreshed screen of the TraceTogether app, in order to avoid guests trying to sneak in by just showing a screenshot."
Chef Gan Ming Kiat of Mustard Seed, a restaurant in Serangoon Garden, has even done a video for diners, showing how staff will do the checks.
Mustard Seed will accept only negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results from providers approved by the Health Ministry.
Said chef Jason Tan, owner of Euphoria, a restaurant in Tras Street, in Tanjong Pagar: "The PCR test is more accurate, and I need to ensure the safety of all my team members and guests."
But some restaurants said they would accept negative antigen rapid test (ART) results too. This is a quick screening tool which is able to identify those infected, with higher viral loads, in about 80 per cent of cases. It can also identify people without the disease in 97 per cent to 100 per cent of cases.
Chef Jonathan Lee of Habibi-san, a Middle Eastern izakaya in Haji Lane, in Kampong Glam, said: "If diners are able to prove that their ART or PCR tests are negative within the last 24 hours, we'll gladly have them."
At Micasa Kitchen & Bar, a casual Spanish-inflected restaurant in Jalan Jurong Kechil, in Bukit Timah, chef-owner Micah Lim said: "The test results have to be from reliable sources, rather than a screen shot."
All the owners and chefs contacted were relieved that people can dine in restaurants again, for now.
Chef Willin Low, who runs Relish at Cluny Court, and Relish and Roketto Izakaya at Frasers Tower, said: "It's a welcome move. Allowing vaccinated guests to dine in is the best balance we can have, given the situation. Many F&B businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Many jobs are at stake as well."
Mr Frank Shen, co-owner of Laut, a gastropub in Stanley Street, in Telok Ayer, said he would like to see some other restrictions lifted. Currently, recorded music cannot be played in restaurants, and they must stop serving alcohol at 10.30pm.
He said: "We feel that light music should be fine in restaurants, as well as being able to operate until midnight."
Chef Ratha Krishnan of The Black Sheep Cafe, a casual restaurant at Thomson V Two in Sin Ming Road, said: "Knowing that we live in a time where uncertainty is the only certainty, I do understand that our Government has to do whatever is needed to protect our citizens.
"However, now there is enough hindsight to at least make sure directives are more logical. For example, restaurants cannot restart in one working day. And it would be good to be able to have even numbers of guests at one table, so that we don't lose more seats with the safe distancing requirement. Five is a bad number for business."