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Some restaurants expect better business with eased COVID-19 rules, prepare for checks on diners from same household

Some restaurants expect better business with eased COVID-19 rules, prepare for checks on diners from same household

People are seen at a food and beverage outlet in Holland Village on Aug 10, 2021, as dining-in resumes for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Restaurants expect business to improve after Singapore announced that dining-in restrictions will be eased for people from the same household, with F&B outlets putting in place measures to ensure that the rules are kept to. 

From Wednesday (Nov 10), fully vaccinated people from the same household can dine out in groups of five, up from the limit of two.

This, however, does not apply to hawker centres and coffee shops as they are unable to carry out comprehensive checks on all diners.

Previously when five people were allowed to dine together, Nando’s Singapore saw a “significant increase” in business, said the restaurant chain’s general manager Moji Neshat.

“As we approach the year-end, we expect demand for family gatherings to increase so this will make a real difference,” he added.

Co-founder of cafe Old Hen Coffee, Terry Lim, also thinks business will improve. One of the eatery's two outlets has a bigger capacity which is more “family-oriented”, he said.

Similarly, Mr James Chiew, the owner of steamboat restaurant LongQing, said he expects a 20 per cent increase in reservations.

He added, however, that the relaxed rules are likely to bring more convenience to families than result in a big change in revenue. This is because it is usually friends who meet to catch up over steamboat, Mr Chiew said.

CHALLENGES IN VERIFICATION

While restaurants CNA spoke to said they will check customers' identification card details to ensure that they are from the same household, they noted challenges in some cases.

“For Singapore citizens and permanent residents, we can check their IC or Singpass but for children and non-Singaporeans, it is more challenging to check their residential address,” said Mr Neshat. 

For children, the verification will be based on trust, he added.

“Ultimately, we cannot verify the residential address of children and so we will have to rely on what parents tell us,” he said.

Mr Chiew said that if he sees a couple with two children, it is “not very polite” to ask if the children live with them. The co-founder of Steep cafe Joanne Giam noted that parents typically do not bring their children’s birth certificates out.

In announcing the eased measures, co-chair of COVID-19 multi-ministry task force Lawrence Wong said on Monday that the Government will take a “practical approach”, and that if there are adults with children, it is “very likely” that they are from the same household.

Mr Neshat said that while it is “very encouraging” to see restrictions being eased gradually as the COVID-19 situation stabilises, authorities could provide some guidelines on enforcing the rules.

“In terms of how restrictions are communicated, it would be very helpful if agencies could share how they envisage the new rules should be applied and enforced by the industry at the same time as they announce the rules,” he said.

This would help standardise the approach across the industry and reduce lapses or over-reach by F&B operators, he added.

Ms Giam said that in cases where her employees cannot confirm that diners are from the same household, the cafe may have to “default” to the two-person limit.

She said it is hard to tell how much business will improve for her cafe. 

“Some may still be hesitant to go out in big groups given the rise in cases,” she said. Ms Giam added that the added checks may be a barrier to dining out for families who may choose to order in instead.

Although the checks may cause some inconvenience to diners, restaurants CNA spoke to say they will strictly enforce the rules.

“We don’t want to flout the rules and be shut down after surviving (COVID-19) for two years,” said Mr Chiew.

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Source: CNA/ja(gs)

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