Eateries call for talks as food rules bite
Restaurant operators are calling on the government to consult with them before deciding on new restrictions that affect their businesses.
They said inconsistent government measures have made it difficult for restaurants to operate.
In July, the government announced tighter restrictions because of surging Covid infections, banning dine-in services at restaurants in malls in dark red zones.
Shopping malls, department stores and community malls are forced to close, except for supermarkets, pharmacies and vaccination stations within their walls.
On Aug 1, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) decided to ease restrictions for affected restaurants and eateries at malls, allowing them to sell food via delivery using online platforms.
This week the cabinet discussed the possibility of allowing restaurant operators and food chains to resume takeaway services. However, it said the final decision rests with the CCSA.
Teerapat Lertsiriprapa, chief executive of Kouen Group, the operator of food chains such as Kouen, Yoong Khao Hom and Da Cuisine, said the government should select representatives from food operators in each sector -- such as street food, food courts, food vendors, quick-service restaurants and chains -- to brainstorm ideas and discuss the problems each of the sectors face.
"The problems related to operating restaurants in shopping complexes and community malls are varied and the government needs to see the whole picture," said Mr Teerapat.
"We need the government to help negotiate a reduction in the delivery fee and rental fee that is suitable for us, as we are only allowed to do delivery. The government should also subsidise retail operators."
Boonyong Tansakul, chief executive at Zen Corporation Plc, the operator of Zen restaurant, AKA and the Tummour brand, agreed that consultation could help because the government needs to design restrictions that are suitable for each restaurant model.
"On Sunday, the government allowed us to do delivery. Then starting Monday, we cannot do anything because it takes about one week to prepare raw materials," he said.
"Reopening kitchens in shopping complexes is quite difficult to manage because we need time to prepare staff and raw materials."
Atchara Burarak, founder of the Iberry Group, the operator of Kub Kao Kub Pla restaurant, said if takeaways are allowed, her company would have to change its strategy again and move equipment to the shopping complexes.
"It's all about costs and expenses," Ms Atchara said.
Nath Vongpanich, president of Central Restaurants Group, the operator of KFC, Pepper Lunch, Katsuya, Yoshinoya and Ootoya eateries, said his company would be satisfied if the government allowed both delivery and takeaway because restaurant chains' good hygiene and safety measures help to prevent infections.
"We believe the government wishes to prevent infections, but the measures should be practical," said Mr Nath.
"It is quite difficult to do business when the measures change from time to time. There are costs if we have to move our equipment back to restaurants at malls."