Despite relaxed MCO, restaurant owners opting out of dine-ins as takeaways safest option

Danial Dzulkifly, John Bunyan And Ben Tan
Restaurant owners feel it is best to continue with takeaways as they are better able to adopt strict social distancing requirements. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — Many local eateries have decided to limit their business to takeaways, even as they are allowed to provide dine-in services under the conditional movement control order (CMCO).

Malay Mail's observation in the Klang Valley, Johor Baru, and Ipoh found that restaurant owners feel it is best to continue with takeaways as they are better able to adopt strict social distancing requirements to ensure the safety of employees and customers alike.

Checks done by Malay Mail in the capital of Johor showed that not many food outlets were open for sit-in dining.

Most outlets adhere with social distancing standard operating procedures (SOP), but still maintain takeaways as their main business operation.

In the city centre, the usually crowded stretch of Jalan Abdullah Tahir is still quite empty.

Well-known eateries in the area such as Banafee Village and also Simple Nasi Lemak had only a handful of customers who were breaking fast.

At both eateries, social distancing was adhered to, with only a maximum of two people per table.

The scenario was similar at other restaurants outside the city centre, where a normal fasting month would see people and families breaking fast together.

For Indian-Muslim restaurant Restoran Al-Masyur in Taman Pelangi, the outlet has decided to allow only takeaways until after the Hari Raya period.

“On the first day of the CMCO, we tried accommodating tables with measurements for two-metre distancing in the restaurant but later abandoned the idea.

“It isn’t an easy task as we have to move several counters to accommodate the social distancing SOP,” said M. Jamal who is the supervisor at Restoran Al-Masyur.

He said that the restaurant will properly plan seating arrangements for dine-ins after the Hari Raya period.

In the city's outskirts, the popular asam pedas restaurant Dulang Lima in Taman Perling said it will maintain takeaways until after the CMCO ends on May 12.

Its staff in-charge Saiful Riman said takeaways are the most convenient option for the restaurant at the moment.

“For the time being, we cater only to takeaways and we start from 3.30pm to 8pm for the Ramadan month,” he said.

Saiful added that it was not easy to implement the dine-in option for customers as there is also the requirement to ask those dining in to list down their particulars in a book.

He said this was in addition to arranging the tables and chairs to comply with social distancing requirement.

“For us, the arrangements are not that difficult. However, I guess the public needs to understand and accept the hassles involved such as listing down their particulars and also practice self-restraint on social distancing,” said Saiful.

Not worth the risk

While adjusting to social distancing rules, some eatery owners prefer to provide takeaway service only and are likely to do so even beyond the Aidilfitri celebrations.

In Ipoh, a staff, who only wanted to be known as Mohan, from the Pelita Nasi Kandar restaurant chain, said that the restaurant is yet to decide whether to allow dine-in even if the state government allows operators to do so.

“At the moment, we are following what the state government has ordered. No dine-in are allowed.

“However, even if they allow dine-in it’s still doubtful whether we will proceed with it. The situation is very uncertain,” he said.

Mohan also said that the business will not be the same even after the state government allows dine-in.

“We won’t be seeing people crowding the restaurant. It might take some time until the public feels completely safe to eat out,” he said.

Meanwhile, a cashier from Restoran Majeedia located along Jalan Raja Musa Aziz, Kuala Lumpur, who only wanted to be known as Rahim, said that the restaurant will only allow dine-ins when it is fully safe.

“Even though the government allows dine-in, we will only consider allowing it based on the situation.

“Until then we will stick to takeaways and deliveries. Business has dropped because of this, but we don’t want to take any risk,” he said.

Shahirah Shahrin Low, owner of the Hajid Shahrin Low Chinese Muslim Restaurant in Kota Damansara, echoed a similar sentiment, saying she does not want to take any risk for the safety of her employees.

“It is not likely we would open to dine-in customers any time soon as the situation is very uncertain. We do want to risk our employees’ safety as well as the customers’,’’ she said.

The CMCO has been extended until July 9.

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