Restaurants, cafes welcome easing of restrictions

Lyna Mohamad & Rokiah Mahmud

The further easing of restrictions for the second phase of the de-escalation plan have been positive news to local businesses affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, particularly restaurants and cafes in the country.

Mulia Hotel Operations Director Mohd Iswandi bin Maaruf welcomed the announcement with a sigh of relief, since the hotel’s revenue streams are its eateries Vanda Chinese Restaurant and

“The change to allow restaurants to increase their capacity is good news for us,” he said.

“However, we must still remember not to be too complacent.”

The hotel’s health safety measures include mandating the use of face masks for all staff, marking floors and seats to maintain social distance between patrons, and providing hand sanitisers at entrances.

Mohd Iswandi, in his capacity as President of the Brunei Association of Hotels (BAH), has continually updated hotels regarding the latest developments of COVID-19, especially for restaurants, to ensure that the management teams are well-versed with rules and regulations. “But if a restaurant has a small dining space, then the 60 per cent capacity regulation to practise social distancing will be a challenge,” he said.

Customers observing social distancing at an eatery. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

Meanwhile, The Brunei Hotel General Manager Andy Goh applauded the easing of restrictions.
“It is a good move towards reviving the economy as most local businesses have been affected by the virus outbreak, with some having to ask their employees to go on unpaid leave in an attempt to shave expenses,” he said.

The hotel’s Assistant Food and Beverage Manager Robert Rubillar shared Goh’s view by expressing hope that “it will reach 100 per cent capacity soon”.

He added, “We hope to see familiar faces coming back to our Choices Restaurant. They can be rest assured that their health is our priority. As a matter of fact, we will be conducting our services in accordance with the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).”

Coffee Talk Brunei Chef Joseph Bakam also welcomed the new guidelines as it will allow more customers to dine at the café.

“Prior to the announcement, we could only allow a small number of dine-in customers,” he said. “Even then, especially at the beginning of the first phase of the de-escalation plan, there were customers who were wary of dining in public.”

He added, “With the new guidelines expanding the capacity of 60 per cent, as well as the positive developments of COVID-19 in the country, we are expected to see more customers eating out again.”

However, he said, “there are people who struggle to grasp the importance of the BruHealth app and the requirement to scan the QR code” and hoped that they will adapt to the new normal soon.

Meanwhile, Halimah Sa’adiah, a restaurant owner in Kampong Jerudong, expressed optimism that the new guidelines will allow small cafes such as hers to generate the much-needed revenues to make up for the losses incurred at the beginning of the outbreak.

“We are vigilant in following the advice by the Ministry of Health (MoH), such as ensuring social distancing and sanitising the premises frequently,” she said. “We also remind our customers to practise basic hygiene and monitor their health.”

She added, “In some way, the new normal has taught us to be more aware of our surroundings, as well as taking care of our hygiene and health.”