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Singapore

Self-service buffets are back, but some buffet restaurants are still serving food to customers

Self-service buffets are back, but some buffet restaurants are still serving food to customers

Kiseki Japanese Buffet Restaurant at Orchard Central. (Photo: Minor Food Group)

SINGAPORE: A return of lavish spreads and the aroma of freshly prepared food wafts through the air as diners wait patiently in line, eager to fill their plates.

Buffet restaurants are finally getting a taste of normalcy after Singapore scrapped restrictions surrounding self-service buffets on Saturday (Apr 30), more than two years after the pandemic began.

Self-service buffets were suspended in April 2020 after Singapore announced "circuit breaker" measures to stem the spread of COVID-19. Buffet lines were allowed to resume in April last year, although the food still had to be dished out by servers to prevent diners from coming into contact with the items.

At GoroGoro Steamboat & Korean Buffet, bookings have gone up by 30 per cent since Saturday, according to the restaurant’s manager Nick Aw.

“The restaurant was full over the long weekend. Usually it would only be about three-quarters full on a weekend, so it was good for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Landmark Restaurant, which is located in Village Hotel Bugis, told CNA that it received "quite a lot" of customers on Saturday, but did not elaborate on the number.

However, not all restaurants are rushing to offer self-service buffets.

Minor Food Group, which operates Kiseki Japanese Buffet Restaurant at Orchard Central, said customers still have to place their orders using the iPads on their tables, and will be served by staff members.

“When we couldn’t do self-service buffets, we pivoted to using iPads and that was successful and helped us to continue running our business for the past two years,” said the group’s chairman and CEO Dellen Soh.

“Now that the restrictions have been lifted, we don’t want to rush it. We want to make sure that we're all ready for it before we go back to being a full self-service restaurant.”

Diners at Kiseki Japanese Buffet Restaurant still have to order using an iPad as the restaurant has not resumed self-service buffets. (Photo: Minor Food Group)

Mr Soh added that the restaurant will be closed for three weeks after Sunday, for renovation works.

“When the Government started announcing relaxations in safe distancing earlier this year, we began planning to renovate our restaurant to create a new layout and put in new kitchen equipment because we knew that customer volumes would go up, and that would justify our investment in renovating the restaurant,” he said.

“So the latest relaxation measures was really very good news for us, we’ve been waiting for this news for so long,” he added.

Under current regulations, self-service buffets are allowed at F&B outlets, as well as events such as weddings, funerals and work-related or social gatherings.

To ensure the safety of diners and staff members, restaurants and caterers are required to provide hand sanitisers or disposable gloves for their customers.

Resuming self-service buffets will also help to reduce the pressure on buffet restaurants, at a time where the F&B sector is facing a manpower crunch.

Currently, Kiseki Japanese Buffet Restaurant employs around 40 to 45 staff members, including waiters and kitchen staff.

When CNA interviewed Mr Soh in August last year, he said that manpower costs had gone up by 30 per cent as the group had to hire more employees since self-service buffets were not allowed.

However, once the restaurant reopens and starts self-service buffets, Mr Soh said staff members will be redeployed to other restaurants under the group.

“We need a minimum of about 30 staff members at Kiseki, so the rest can be seconded to our other brands where we desperately need people,” he said.

Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts, which has seen a 35 per cent increase in bookings, said it is also recruiting more staff members for the front and back of house operations to meet the rising demand.

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Source: CNA/vl(aj)

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