Caught off guard, several KL restaurants turn away patrons after govt allows dine-in again

Kenneth Tee
·4-min read
People queue to purchase food to go at Thong Kee Cafe in Pandan Indah February 10, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
People queue to purchase food to go at Thong Kee Cafe in Pandan Indah February 10, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — The first day the government lifted its ban against dining in at restaurants under the movement control order (MCO) did not have quite the desired effect, judging from Malay Mail’s observations of several food and beverage establishments in the city.

Though dine-in is allowed again, restaurant operators met during the walkabout remarked that the 24-hour announcement caught them by surprise, leaving them insufficient time to ready their front of house for patrons.

“As you can see, half of the shop is filled with our stock, which we stored in bulk here,” Lai Kwai Fatt who works as a supervisor at the Thong Kee Cafe outlet in Pandan Indah, Ampang told Malay Mail yesterday, gesturing toward the loaves of bread stacked atop the dining tables.

“Even then, we still have walk-in customers asking why they were not allowed to dine in... which I then had to explain to them our situation. They were very understanding,” he added.

The shop that originated from Bentong, Pahang is well known for its croissants and toasts paired with the local Hainanese coffee and draws a large number of KL-ites from all over the city daily.

Lai said the cafe will be delaying dine-in operations since Chinese New Year is right around the corner and many of the staff would be taking a short break for the holiday.

He added that business will resume on Sunday, which is also the third day of Chinese New Year.

“Hopefully I will have enough time to tidy up the place by then,” he added.

Little Sifu Famous Roast Meat proprietor Tevez speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at Pandan Indah February 10, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Little Sifu Famous Roast Meat proprietor Tevez speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at Pandan Indah February 10, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Next door, the Little Sifu Famous Roast Meat was also closed to dine-in patrons. Its proprietor who only wanted to be known as Tevez related a similar story to Lai’s, saying the government’s abrupt announcement gave businesses too short a notice to accommodate dine-in customers.

“As you can see our stock and supplies are kept at the shop since we have been operating on a takeaway/deliveries basis.

“When you suddenly say restaurants are allowed to offer dine-ins and we say no to customers because of our circumstances, they might question us,” Tevez said, sounding fatigued.

He said it was tough on business owners to manage their operations when the government made abrupt changes to its policies. He hoped the government would show more consistency when making decisions, especially those in the F&B industry which deals with a large number of perishable goods.

Across the road was Restoran Chetties, which serves south Indian food. It was one of the few F&B outlets in the area that was open for dine-in yesterday.

Even so, the number of people who passed through its doors and sat down at the tables during the lunch hour could be counted on one hand yesterday.

Restoran Chetties proprietor Sritharan is pictured at his restaurant at Pandan Indah February 10, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Restoran Chetties proprietor Sritharan is pictured at his restaurant at Pandan Indah February 10, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

“They’re trickling in, but many are still discouraged from eating out as the government policy is limited to two people,” its manager who only gave his name as Sritharan told Malay Mail.

He related that he had rushed from his house in Kepong to the restaurant on February 9 after hearing the announcement regarding dine-in so that he could instruct the staff to tidy up the shop and brief them on what to do should patrons opt to dine in.

He said there had been some families and groups that had entered the restaurant earlier, but insisted on not being separated.

“We have to politely reject them, which translates to loss of business for us,” Sritharan said.

At the MyTown Shopping Centre in Cheras, a number of restaurants remained closed to dine-in. From Malay Mail’s observation, it seemed that food delivery partners waiting to pick up their orders outnumbered the number of people who were able to dine in.

A handful of those that accepted dine-ins appeared to have achieved their maximum capacity of two people to a table, due to the limited space.

Some those that were open told Malay Mail they were only accepting orders for delivery or takeaways for the time being, and had not been told by their management to allow dine-ins.

MyBurgerLab and Inside Scoop outlet supervisor Haqqem Zainal speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at the MyTown shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur February 10, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
MyBurgerLab and Inside Scoop outlet supervisor Haqqem Zainal speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at the MyTown shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur February 10, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

One such outlet was MyBurgerLab, which twins with ice-cream purveyor Inside Scoop.

“As I understand, it is still in discussion but HQ asked us to maintain takeaway and deliveries for now.

“From what was said, management has expressed fears of potential infection risks should we open for dine-ins but they did order us to standby first by arranging the tables and chairs in accordance to the announced SOP,” said Haqqem Zainal who supervises both shops.

Another supervisor at The Chicken Rice Shop who declined to be named said the government announcement had caught the management off guard because most of the service crew had already applied for leave from work. That left the restaurant operating at minimum capacity, which meant it could only handle orders for takeaway and delivery.

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