Dining-in ban hurts ailing eateries

Dining-in ban hurts ailing eateries

Month-long measure adds to their plight

Dining tables and chairs are put aside at a food court in Bangkok following the government's measures to ban dine-in at restaurants across the capital to curb the spread of Covid-19. Varuth Hirunyatheb
Dining tables and chairs are put aside at a food court in Bangkok following the government's measures to ban dine-in at restaurants across the capital to curb the spread of Covid-19. Varuth Hirunyatheb

Eateries are braving the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis, with the government's latest announcement to ban dining-in at restaurants across high-risk areas including Bangkok through July anticipated to aggravate their plight.

Nongchanok Stananonth, assistant vice-president of marketing at SLRT, operator of Sizzler restaurant chain, said that with the new measure, 31 Sizzler restaurants out of 57 have had to stop dine-in service, providing only deliveries and take-aways.

"The latest Covid-19 control measures including a ban on dining-in at restaurants sound much like the tsunami that caught the eatery business off guard," Mrs Nongchanok said.

"With the new measures, sales of Sizzler are likely to fall by 40%. The company will then have to put more focus on the delivery channel, advertising cost reduction and more effective raw material purchase management."

Published in the Royal Gazette website late on Saturday night, the government's latest Covid-19 control measures including a ban on dining-in at restaurants across high-risk areas, which came into force on Monday.

The restrictions apply to Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Pathum Thani, Narathiwat, Songkhla, Pattani and Yala -- provinces which have been classified by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration as "maximum and strict control zones", also known as "dark red" zones.

The restrictions, according to the announcement, will be in effect for 30 days.

Under the new curbs, all 575 construction worker camps across Greater Bangkok have been sealed off while restaurant dining in Bangkok and five surrounding provinces is banned to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Natalie Phanphensophon, chief operating officer of Coca Holding International Co, a pioneer of sukiyaki restaurant business in Thailand, said it was unfair to inform restaurant operators of the new strict measure at 1am.

"We should have been informed at least five days in advance so we could manage our raw material stocks more efficiently. We do not go to the market to buy meat and vegetables today just for using tomorrow,'' Ms Natalie said.

However, to stay afloat, the company has to open more cloud kitchens in Bang Na and Ratchadaphisek to reach its customer base.

Thanapong Wongchinsri, owner of Penguin Eat Shabu restaurant, said the company may have to close the new restaurant in Bangkok soon following the new ban on sit-in dining at restaurants.

"We've been hurt for one and a half years and the government pledged to support us, but what we receive is just an empty promise," he said. "We are now in the intensive care unit but the government only gives us paracetamol."

Mr Thanapong said overall restaurant operators remain desperate for the government's support both in terms of aid and understanding the priority area the government has to allocate money.

Taniwan Koonmongkon, president of the Thai Restaurant Association, said she expects several billion baht to be lost due to the new ban.

"The government's latest aid plan to compensate workers in restaurants during the month-long Covid-19 restriction in Bangkok and nearby provinces is not enough," she said, calling on the government to help medium-sized restaurants by buying meal boxes to be delivered to construction workers who are confined to their camps and field hospital staff. These meal boxes will help improve the cash flow of cash-strapped operators, she said.

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