Eateries in Bangkok malls got off to a tepid start on the first day of reopening on Wednesday.
A number of restaurant chains at Central Pinklao, The Mall Bangkae, Seacon Square, Future Park Rangsit and Megabangna resumed operations, with executives optimistic customers would gradually return.
"We reopened 250 of our 256 Japanese restaurants. It is a good start for us on the first day of reopening. About 50% of normal levels of customers came back to our restaurants, and in some suburban locations such as Megabangna and Future Park Rangsit, customers queued up in front of our restaurants," said Paisarn Aowsathaporn, executive vice-president of food business at SET-listed Oishi Group.
"Other Japanese restaurant brands besides Oishi also received a warm welcome from diners."
Nongchanok Stananonth, assistant vice-president of SLRT Co, the operator of Sizzler restaurant under Minor Food Group, was similarly optimistic.
"I feel encouraged after seeing better than expected customer numbers at Sizzler restaurants on the first day of reopening," she said.
According to Ms Nongchanok, earlier concern about weak consumer spending power was eased after she witnessed unchanged average spending per bill.
"It is too early to evaluate the situation, but we are optimistic about the prospects because eating steak requires ambience for the experience," she said.
A representative of Bar-B-Q restaurant at Seacon Bangkae said 40-60% of typical customer numbers returned to the restaurant, depending on the time of day.
An average of 2-3 customers sat at each table, with big groups yet to return as people remain cautious about their safety, said the agent.
"Spending power is still good and customers spend less time eating compared with usual situations. If the number of visitors continues at this level, we expect our sales to recover by 40-50%," the Bar-B-Q representative said.
"The delivery business may decline slightly, but we are ready to launch new menus to offer attractive promotions."
Pitsamai Chaiprasit, a 38-year-old housewife, said at first she was not confident about the safety measures introduced by restaurants because the government only asked for their cooperation, rather than provide standards.
But after seeing how the restaurants are operating and what hygiene equipment they use, she feels more confident about visiting again, she said.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration last Friday decided to lift most restrictions on retail and dining starting on Wednesday.
Restaurants are allowed to resume dine-in services, with 75% capacity allowed for outdoor dining spaces and 50% for air-conditioned locations.