Crowds brave heat, snaking queues for nasi kandar fix at Penang’s famous Hameediyah Restaurant

·3-min read
Customers wait for their turn to be served at Hameediyah Nasi Kandar in George Town, Penang October 22, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Customers wait for their turn to be served at Hameediyah Nasi Kandar in George Town, Penang October 22, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 22 — Ever since the interstate travel ban was lifted, long queues have continued to form outside Penang’s renowned Hameediyah Restaurant on Campbell Street throughout the day, especially during lunchtime.

Restaurant owner Ahamed Seeni Pakir said they are severely short-handed so they cannot serve their customers, many of whom are from other states, as fast as they wanted.

“We are now getting between 800 and 1,000 customers per day,” he told reporters outside his restaurant during a press conference today.

He said more than half of the customers are out-of-towners, comprising regulars who had been waiting a long time to satiate their Hameediyah craving.

“As a result of our shortage of staff, our customers have to queue outside on the pavement in the heat so we hope the city council can help by providing umbrellas or canopy for the people queuing along the pavement,” he said.

Since the pavement is public domain, he said it is only right that the city council is the one to provide the umbrellas or canopy.

He said the long wait was also due to the reduced capacity of the restaurant in compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The main restaurant building has a capacity for 40 people but due to the SOPs, this has been reduced to 20 people at any one time.

He said they have another building a few shops away on the same row along Campbell Street, but they could not open the space as they do not have the manpower to manage it.

“We only open it for customers who are unable to walk up our staircase in our main building,” he said.

Previously, with both spaces open, the restaurant had a total capacity of about 200 people at any one time.

“So, with so little space for dine-in now, many of our customers have to queue outside and some of them had to wait more than an hour outside under the hot sun,” he said.

He said they used to have about 50 workers, most of whom are foreigners, to manage the main restaurant and its additional shoplot.

“Before the pandemic, some of them went back to their home country and they were unable to come back after that,” he said.

He said they are now left with only 20 workers to manage the operations of the restaurant, serve customers, and ensure compliance to SOPs.

“Sometimes, it is hard to ensure SOP compliance among customers, especially if it is raining outside and everyone has to crowd inside to avoid the rain,” he said.

He said they are faced with pressure to ensure strict compliance to the SOPs while at the same time, to serve their customers as best as they could.

“We do not want to disappoint our customers and make them wait for too long,” he said.

He reiterated his call to Putrajaya to allow restaurants to bring in foreign workers to help them cope with the increase in business.

He stressed that they have always made sure to give local workers priority in hiring but locals often do not want to work in his restaurant.

“It is not that we do not want to hire local workers; they don’t want to work in our restaurant,” he said.

He said a local worker is paid RM1,800 basic salary for an eight-hour daily shift along with other benefits and overtime.

“Sometimes, they can earn up to RM2,000 to RM3,000 per month in total from their basic and overtime,” he said.

He added that they are open to hiring locals of any background, even students and retirees, as long as they are prepared to work.

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