SINGAPORE – More diners flocked to select Singapore restaurants over the weekend to satisfy their hunger for good food and good company before restrictions on group sizes came into effect on Monday, September 27 .
Four restaurateurs the Straits Times spoke to on Sunday said the higher traffic came mainly from those who choose to dine in groups of more than two.
It comes after the multi-ministerial task force announced on Friday that people would only be allowed to assemble in groups of two as Singapore tightens restrictions to slow the rise in Covid-19 cases.
Under the new rules, restaurants can only accommodate two fully vaccinated diners per group. Over the weekend, the limit is five fully vaccinated individuals, under a decision that took effect six weeks ago.
The new measures will last for a month from Monday, with the rules being reviewed in two weeks and adjusted, depending on the situation in the community, authorities said.
MG Shanmugam, owner of Bottoms Up in Telok Ayer, said the crowd in his bar was noticeably larger over the weekend.
Mr. Sheen Jet Leong, owner of Rappu and The Feather Blade restaurants in Tanjong Pagar, said that although both outlets are usually full on weekends, the number of walk-in diners was at least 15. at 20% higher than normal.
Mr Anthony Yeoh, owner of Summer Hill restaurant in Clementi, said reservations for the weekend were registered as soon as news of the tighter restrictions broke on Friday evening. âSome are groups of friends who had planned to meet later this month, while others are regulars and passing visitors,â he noted.
Mr Yeoh has also seen an increase in the number of larger takeout orders and expects this to continue in the coming weeks as families can only eat together at home.
To help meet demand, he hired 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, the demand for takeout also changes. The whole ecosystem needs time to cope with these changes, and sometimes we have a hard time finding a passenger. , this is a big enough problem to hire a car as a backup because our average takeout order is $ 200 to $ 500 for large groups. “
Mr Cedric Tang, the owner of Ka-Soh restaurants serving Chinese cuisine in Outram and Greenwood, estimated a 20-30% increase in diners over the weekend.
Take-out orders have also become more important, he said. Usually each order is between $ 80 and $ 90. But over the weekend, there were more orders between $ 160 and $ 180 each.
âMany of our clients are families with older people (members), so they could take their own precautions when eating at home after the announcement. But others could be groups gathering at home,â he said. added Mr. Tang.
Announcing the restrictions last Friday, authorities said the number of daily Covid-19 cases in Singapore could double to 3,200 by next week if the current trend continues. As of Saturday, 1,443 new cases were reported.
The Straits Times reported on Saturday that the multitude of changes to safety management measures for food and beverage operators (F&B) have taken their toll on them.
They cited challenges such as assessing the amount of ingredients to order and assigning an adequate workforce to enforce various safety restrictions.
For example, the country eased restrictions for the last time six weeks ago, when fully vaccinated people were allowed to dine in restaurants in groups of up to five. Another set of earlier rules completely prohibited eating in all establishments.
Mr Shanmugam said outlets like his, which are mainly a bar, where the demand for delivery services is not as high as that for restaurants, would struggle to keep up over the next month.
“The grants are helping but I hope there will be fewer closures after this period,” he said.
Businesses such as grocery stores and retailers will receive around $ 650 million in wage subsidies, rent waivers and other forms of support to help them cope with the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions.
Other operators like Mr. Yeoh are trying to take matters into their own hands.
At the start of the pandemic, he had expected regulations on the size of groups allowed to change and replaced the restaurant’s original tables with square tables.
âThis makes it modular and allows us to reconfigure the seating arrangement as needed,â he said.