Restaurateurs heave a sigh of relief

Syazwani Hj Rosli

With Brunei Darussalam entering the second phase of the de-escalation plan for COVID-19 precautions, restaurants can now provide dine-in services at 60 per cent of capacity under social distancing guidelines from the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Executive Manager of Wira Group Hajah Noor Monasalieana @ Suzie binti Haji Mohd Salleh told the Bulletin that she was delighted with the announcement, despite the strict conditions required for dining establishments.

“The past few months have been a struggle for us in the restaurant business. Despite the lack of income, we still had to pay rent, overhead expenses, employee wages and others,” she said.

“Operating at 60 per cent of capacity hopefully will help us recover, Insya Allah. However, the issue that we are facing now is customers refusing to comply with social distancing measures. We’ve already affixed markers to the seats, but it didn’t prevent people from sitting close to each other.

“We tend to be lenient when they are one family dining out, but less so when they are just friends or colleagues. We know that customers are always right, but not at the present moment. We still have to adhere to the rules and regulations set by the government.

Diners at a restaurant. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

“But cleanliness, as well as social and physical distancing, will remain our priority. My employees regularly disinfect the tables, wear masks and gloves, and wash their hands in between taking the orders. It’s a challenge adapting to such practices as the ‘new normal’, but we want our customers to feel comfortable.”

Hajah Noor Monasalieana however admitted that there is a slight rise in menu prices, as restaurants are continuing to struggle with higher prices from suppliers and other expenses.

“We hope that the public will continue to support local businesses through dine-ins, take-outs, leaving a good review and being considerate in view of the current regulations,” she said, adding, “Insya Allah, we are in this together and we will go through this together.”

Assistant Manager II of Gerai De’Ceriaa Mohammad Rizal bin Bagol also welcomed the news, saying, “Hopefully, this should enable our businesses to recover.

“The past few months were difficult, but we tried to overcome the situation by offering delivery services, promotions for takeaways and so on. Alhamdulillah, our customer response was very good.

“We are grateful to the Brunei Government for helping ease our burdens through the increased seating capacity. We are hoping to reach our sales target soon.”