By Chee Jo-Ey
AFTER the government announced that most business activities will be allowed to resume starting May 4 under a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), food and beverage outlets are seen gradually reopening to welcome dine-in customers.
However, not all restaurants have jumped back into the usual way of things with some opting to still provide only delivery and takeaway services.
McDonald's had announced earlier this month that it won't be opening its doors for dine in, citing public safety as its priority.
A check on KFC’s Facebook account also revealed that its dine-in services remain closed for the public’s safety but that its kitchens are still open for takeaway, drive-thru and delivery with new extended hours.
Meanwhile, Burger King is slowly reopening its restaurants in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah for dine-in services. In a statement posted on Facebook, it said that the public’s health and safety is its top priority and it has enhanced its cleaning and sanitising procedures as well as limited the dining space capacity to 50%.
Under the CMCO, restaurants are allowed to open for dine in but with the condition that they comply with regulations set by the authorities which include customer contact registration, table distancing and sanitisation.
So, how are restaurants coping with the health and safety measures?
D’Tandoor founder Datuk Abdul Malik Abdullah said that there is still confusion about what can and can’t be done when it comes to specifics like the sharing of utensils and dishes, the placement of sanitisers and so forth.
Most customers are still wary about dining in and business owners are cautious about reopening as well due to the risks involved.
The D’Tandoor chain has opened the doors of only two of its six restaurants for dine-in, at Subang Jaya and Penang.
“Should one of our workers become infected with the virus at work, we would have to bear the consequences and close the restaurant for 14 days. Our business would suffer for months and we would have to deal with the stigma associated with the coronavirus disease as well,” he said.
There’s no clear cut procedure on how a company should go about reopening its business should one of its workers contracted the disease, he said. “We are not given enough information on the dedicated contractors and costs for sanitisation which from what I heard could run up to RM40,000,” he added.
Aside from that, the implementation of preventve measures have also incurred extra costs and dampened business as only half of the space can be utilised and a table can only seat up to four people.
Kanna Curry House manager Yoga Kannan said that the restaurants now house only seven to 10 tables each depending on the size of the shops. When customers come in large groups, the staff will put a few tables together to maintain distance.
“We have more customers opting for takeaways and our recently launched delivery services compared to dining in which is more limited.
“When customers enter the restaurant, we allocate a staffer to take their temperatures and provide them with sanitisers before registering them manually in the record book or via the QR code provided by the authorities. We double clean all our tables with disinfectants and all our staff are required to wear masks and gloves,” he explained.
Dragon-i Restaurant CEO Datuk Henry Yip notes the importance of complying with the health and safety regulations despite it being a tedious process. Almost 80% of the Dragon-i chain of restaurants are now open for dine-in and the restaurants have strengthened their standard operating procedures for ensuring the safety of diners.
The restaurant chain has always set high hygiene standards for its outlets with its facilities being compliant with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations and ISO 22000. It had also adopted a holistic approach to training and preparing its local staff for the new normality.
“We want to go above and beyond the health and safety guidelines provided by the authorities. For instance, we sanitise our kitchens every day, sterilise our cutlery and install air purifiers in enclosed spaces and make sure that our customers keep to the measures as well, otherwise it may mean turning them away.
“We also equip our frontliners with basic food preparation knowledge so they would be able to serve our customers or attend to their enquiries better,” he said.
Since the CMCO came into force, it has regained up to 50% of its business but Yip predicts that it will take months to return to normality. “The whole Covid-19 situation has really taken a toll on our businesses and we require more government assistance especially in relation to rental waivers,” he said. - May 21, 2020