Restaurants ready to accept diners but reservations remain

Restaurants which have remained closed since March 18 under the movement control order will be allowed to reopen on May 4.

PETALING JAYA: Restaurant owners representing a variety of flavours generally welcomed the government’s move to allow them to return to business after being closed since March 18, but many are concerned that the new requirements for social distancing will be easier said than done.

The Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma), which represents some 10,000 owners of the popular “mamaks” nationwide, said its members were ready to receive diners while observing several SOPs specified under the conditional MCO announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today.

These include for tables to be placed two metres apart, the one-metre social distancing rule to be observed at the cashier, hand sanitiser for customers and face masks for workers.

Muhyiddin said restaurants would also be required to take down customers’ names and phone numbers to allow the authorities to trace them if any infections are reported at the restaurant.

Presma president Jawahar Ali Taib Khan however said the social distancing rule for tables to be placed two metres apart would mean fewer customers for smaller restaurants.

“A shop at an intermediate lot would only be able to have four tables, which means at any one time, only eight persons can sit if the two-metre ruling is enforced,” Ali told FMT.

Jawahar’s predecessor Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub meanwhile disagreed completely with the government’s decision allowing eateries to take dine-in customers.

He said authorities should have waited until after Hari Raya, adding that there would not be much business anyway during the fasting month.

He said it would also be a challenge to implement social distancing and to note down the phone numbers of customers.

“There are bound to be stubborn customers who won’t listen.

“How are we to get phone numbers from them if they refuse?” he said, adding that Malaysia should learn from Singapore which saw a sharp spike of infections within the foreign migrants community.

“We should remain open for takeaways for the time being,” he said.

The Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association also voiced similar concerns.

It said most of its 21,000 members had remained open for takeaways.

But its president Ho Su Mong asked how the new SOPs would be implemented, especially on getting customers’ contact details.

“I think it’s a good rule to limit the number of customers at each table, but I think it will be tough to record the details of all people who eat at the shops – especially for the smaller shops with fewer staff,” said Ho.

“We want the economy to reopen, but public health is more important than anything else.”

The Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) cautioned there would be hiccoughs in complying with the guidelines.

“Since this is totally new and we don’t have any previous experience with these SOPs, unintentional mistakes can happen,” said Primas president T Muthusamy.

He said the relevant authorities should enforce the rules through an “educational and friendly approach”.

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