Restaurants accept dine-in rules
Reopening needs all staff to be inoculated
Restaurant operators say they are receptive to Public Health Ministry plans for reopening, which involve tough Covid-19 protocols including a requirement for diners to show vaccination proof.
The so-called sandbox concept for the restaurant business, to be applicable to 29 strictly-controlled dark red provinces, is expected to be proposed by the Public Health Ministry at tomorrow's meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
Under this scheme, all staff in a restaurant have to be 100% inoculated and all of them have to be tested with rapid antigen test kits every 5-7 days.
Moreover, the restaurants have to operate in ventilated places while customers have to show vaccine certificates.
Boonyong Tansakul, chief executive of Zen Corporation Public Co, the operator of Zen, AKA and On the Table brands, said the Public Health Ministry pitched the sandbox idea to restaurants during the meeting between representatives of the Thai Shopping Centre Association and Thai Restaurant Association and the Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Tuesday.
"Under the scheme, restaurants that can follow the guidelines would get signage from the government to show their restaurant's safety, and they are not subject to closure if new waves of the pandemic occur," he said. "More importantly, under the proposed guidelines, we no longer get a headache if the government's inconsistent restriction measures are introduced in the future."
Mr Boonyong said he expects the new guidelines to elicit good responses from customers and keep staff in the restaurant sector, which accounts for up to 32% of the country's total employment.
Kannika Chinprasithchai, senior marketing director at Black Canyon (Thailand) Co, the operator of the Black Canyon coffee and restaurant chain, said that she was in favour of the Public Health Ministry's proposal.
"It is a very good idea to apply the sandbox concept to the restaurant business. We are ready to put all guidelines into practice as soon as possible when this measure becomes effective,'' Mrs Kannika said.
According to Mrs Kannika, even though the sandbox concept will create more expenses and difficulties for businesses, her company is ready to embrace such protocols.
Currently, the company operates 310 Black Canyon restaurants across the country.
"We believe that consumers are ready to eat out at restaurants, although they might feel a bit inconvenienced by some guidelines,'' Mrs Kannika said.
Nath Vongphanich, president of Central Restaurants Group, said that the company also approves of the restaurant sandbox idea, since tighter measures will boost consumer confidence when visiting restaurants.
"Though the conditions may be more complicated, we believe that the tightened measures are likely to be applied for a short time and will become more flexible and lenient if the pandemic gets better,'' Mr Nath said.
Currently, according to Mr Nath, 80% of his company's staff in 29 dark red provinces were vaccinated and an average of 70% of the company's staff across the country had already got their jabs.
"If the sandbox concept is used, we are ready to gradually reopen our restaurants," he said. "It may take time to draw consumers back to our restaurants in the beginning, but we believe that our takeaway business will absolutely improve and help boost sales to the company.''