Highway R&Rs need to offer wider variety of food, drinks for a multi-racial clientele

Letter to editor

MALAYSIA began building expressways from the late 1980s and since then numerous highways have been built criss-crossing the country.

Most of the highways except the shorter ones have Rest & Refreshment (R&R) facilities along for tired drivers to get some rest, to refresh themselves or to quench their thirst and fill up their empty tummies.

The 772km North South Expressway (NSE) which was opened in 1994 has the highest number of R&Rs. Interestingly, almost all the eateries in the R&Rs are operated by Malays whereby only Malay, Mamak or Muslim food are available.

Although this issue has been highlighted numerous times in the past, nothing has been done by the relevant authorities – or even the expressway concessionaire for the matter – to address the concerns and needs of non-Malay/non-Muslims travellers.

As the NSE is used daily by tens of thousands of drivers of all vehicle types day and night, it is most appropriate that eateries in the R&Rs offer cross-cultural menus for the drivers and passengers who make a stop-over at these facilities.


Already in a state of exhaustion, it is imaginable that they would look forward to having some good food that is in sync with their taste buds before resuming their long journey. Some travellers have started to avoid the R&R eateries as they feel that they cannot get the food of their choice or only leverage the R&Rs for toilet breaks.

In the case of those having health problems like diabetes, this can be dangerous. The Indians and the Chinese are the most affected groups as there are hardly any eateries offering Indian or Chinese halal food around.

To go for an alternative will mean travelling a few kilometres away from the highway to some nearby towns to find their food of choice. It will be especially difficult and inconvenient for drivers of heavy vehicles to do so, hence many just make do with the limited food option at the R&Rs.

PLUS Malaysia Bhd has to stop this discriminatory practice on a captive clientele. As a private entity, it is only reasonable to expect that the largest toll expressway operator in Malaysia and one of the largest in Southeast Asia portrays Malaysia as a diversely multi-ethnical/multi-cultural country.

Don’t think that only Malays/Muslims are sensitive about the state of halal-ness insofar as food is concerned. Indians, especially those of the Hindu faith, are mostly vegetarians and do not consume beef or pork.

In this regard, PLUS and other highway operators need to set aside at least one Indian and one Chinese eatery in their R&R facilities. Chinese eateries can offer a wide variety of rice, noodles and other dishes while the Indian eateries can offer tea with fresh cow’s milk, vada, dosa, idli, puri and a host of other vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

These will certainly make the R&Rs more Indian/Chinese-friendly. It should not be the case of just roti canai, fried noodles or teh tarik – take it or leave it!

This new system of allotting Indian and Chinese eateries is not going to affect the present Malay-operated eateries as more customers will patronise the R&Rs if a wider variety of food and drinks is available as compared to the present situation. – Oct 4, 2023

V. Thomas
Sungai Buloh

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: Paul Tan’s Automotive News

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