For small-time hawkers and cafe owners, Covid-19 shutdown will slash much-needed income

Amirul Asyrah Nazri speaks to a customer at his eatery Nasi Ayam Warisan in Kota Damansara March 17, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Amirul Asyrah Nazri speaks to a customer at his eatery Nasi Ayam Warisan in Kota Damansara March 17, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Following extensive measures by the government to enact a movement control order, effectively shutting down non-essential services across Malaysia, small-time traders fear that they will see their already-meagre incomes dwindle even further.

When met by Malay Mail, many voiced their concerns that they cannot afford to halt their business for even a day fearing it will eat into their razor-thin profit margins amidst growing cost and debt repayments.

Amirul Asyrah Nazri, who runs his family-owned Nasi Ayam Warisan Kota Damansara, said they will continue to operate but will only cater for takeaway orders.

“Starting from the lockdown, we are opening our kitchen only for takeaways and strictly no dine-in customers. We are anxious to see how our regulars will react to the temporary restrictions,” he said.

“From that point on, we’ll be able to see what other measures that we should take, but for now, we have to keep the shop open and see how the next two weeks go.”

Patrons are pictured at the Nasi Ayam Warisan eatery in Kota Damansara March 17, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Patrons are pictured at the Nasi Ayam Warisan eatery in Kota Damansara March 17, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

When asked whether delivery services such as Foodpanda and GrabFood would help, Amirul expressed doubt that this would bring in the necessary orders to match the restaurant’s normal day-to-day takings.

“I doubt it. Orders that came in through Foodpanda, for example, only average around 10 orders per day. That is very low.

“On average, we sell some 50 to 60 chickens on weekdays and can even reach up to 90 chickens per day on weekends. Compared to that, orders through our delivery platforms barely make a dent,’’ he said.

While Amirul did not divulge the restaurant’s daily profits, he reiterated that it needs to stay open and operate as best it can under the circumstances to ensure it remains financially viable.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said on Monday that Malaysia will effectively be hitting pause on all non-essential activities for two weeks from today until March 31 to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus under a nationwide movement control order.

This order covers the whole of Malaysia, with a ban on public gatherings including for any religious, sports, social and cultural events except for supermarkets, sundry goods stores, markets and other places selling daily necessities or things that people would need for their day-to-day lives.

However, a recent to further clarify the movement control order, the National Security Council, through its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) released yesterday that restaurants and eateries can only cater for food delivery services such as GrabFood, Foodpanda and others but will have to strictly avoid dine-in customers.

A sign detailing the dining restriction is pictured at Campbell Street Cafe  in Kota Damansara March 17, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
A sign detailing the dining restriction is pictured at Campbell Street Cafe in Kota Damansara March 17, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

For Campbell Street Cafe Manager, May Seet, she said they have also done their part to inform their regular customers about the government directive and will only open strictly for takeaway orders.

A sign stating “No dine-in, only takeaway from March 18 to March 31” was visible in front of her cafe in anticipation of the movement control order that would come into effect today.

However, she added that the cafe might have to close depending on sales in the next few days.

“We will have to see how we fare for the next few days. If it is not satisfactory, we might have to close the shop for a few days,’’ she said.

Seet also explained that the cafe did not sign up with delivery services as they have always counted on their regular customers.

“I can't say much more than that. We just have to see what happens in the coming days and adapt accordingly,’’ she said, adding that she is also jittery about the café's financial prospects in the coming days.

Checks done by Malay Mail sees many shops and eateries around commercial areas in Kota Damansara operating as usual, but many have placed notices or signs stating they will still be open for business in the next two weeks but strictly for takeaways only.

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