Covid-19 has changed the way we work, play and eat. For F&B owners, the upheaval has been particularly capricious — when the circuit breaker started on April 7 and they were required to stop dine-in service, they scrambled to set up new systems overnight for takeaway and delivery. And now, they have to grapple with reopening for dine-in customers again, as Singapore gradually restarts its economy post-circuit breaker’s Phase 2 on June 19.
The government’s upcoming “safe transition” period will see more businesses — including F&B outlets — reopening with “safe management measures, group size and capacity limits in place”. Groups of no more than five pax will be allowed for communal dining in public, while dining groups have to maintain a distance of at least one metre apart, with no mixing of groups. Alcohol sales and consumption will also have to cease at 10.30pm, and live music, TV and video screenings are prohibited in F&B spaces.
The one metre rule impacts F&B businesses operating within a small space, simply due to logistics: they do not have the luxury of space to spread out their tables that far apart. And then there’s also the economics of it: there will be far less customers, yet many restaurateurs have to continue paying rent in full and also deploy more staff to serve diners.
Which is why some eateries are choosing not to reopen for dining-in immediately after Phase 2 kicks in. “When there are social distancing rules, there will be severely limited capacity. For sure it will affect the whole dining experience, which is part of the reason why we’re hesitant about opening for dine-in,” Ken Loon, owner of seafood restaurant The Naked Finn at the Gillman Barracks, tells 8days.sg.
The 60-seat eatery, which also offers a burger concept called BurgerLabo, has instead been focusing on takeaway and delivery. Ken reckons his “lean team” can’t handle additional dine-in orders on top of their current ones. “It really doesn’t make sense to switch when things are doing ok now,” he says, adding that his current arrangement will continue indefinitely.
Nicole Neo, who owns the 40-seat Gram Cafe & Pancakes at VivoCity, is also holding off reopening for dine-in. “Honestly, I think business will drop by 50% ’cos the seating will be limited due to social distancing,” she shares. “That’s why we may need to continue with [just] delivery to help us with revenue.” Her cafe’s viral ‘soufflé pancake sandwiches’ now have a backlog for delivery orders. She is planning to hold off dine-in service till her cafe fulfills the remaining orders. “My target personally is to [reopen] in mid to end-July for dine-in,” she says.