KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 — For many, February 14 is the date to celebrate the love that we have for our partner in life, or even our family.
But like many other aspects of our lives that we often took for granted, Covid-19 has changed the way we celebrate Valentine’s Day at a time when physical distancing, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and self-isolation have become the norm.
Emily’s Steakhouse at Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur, for example, has seen firsthand how Valentine's Day dining trends have adapted ever since the pandemic hit.
According to general manager David Koay, the restaurant’s patrons made dinner reservations for the days leading up to February 14, rather than the actual day itself.
“We noticed that the pandemic has not been getting better and we usually anticipate a big turnout for Valentine's Day.
“So, this year, we decided to allow diners to still pick from the Valentine's Day menu over the weekend before February 14, which is Monday.
“Diners who made the choice to come in over the weekend have actually eased our worries of overcrowding at the restaurant, especially in this climate where we need to observe SOPs,” Koay told Malay Mail when contacted.
He added that throughout the pandemic, he noticed that the restaurant’s patrons have become more considerate and careful when dining-in due to SOP awareness.
“For me, I have come to terms with having to learn how to work around the situation of this pandemic, and this includes providing a safe dining environment for our diners.
“We cannot afford to go through another round of total lockdown, so it is important that everyone plays their part by adhering to the SOPs set by the government,” he said.
Koay also expressed his gratitude to the steakhouse’s regulars, citing their loyalty as the reason for its successful expansion to two new locations despite these challenging times.
On February 7, the Health Ministry announced that the Omicron wave, which has officially hit Malaysia, is expected to peak at the end of March.
The announcement came as Malaysia breached the 10,000 daily case mark on February 6, for the first time since October 2, 2021.
Over at Vogue Lounge KL, they too have been receiving a steady stream of enquiries on bookings for Valentine's Day.
According to one of its staff, who requested anonymity, things are moving at a slightly slower pace, likely due to the ongoing Chinese New Year celebrations.
“We are getting steady enquiries on bookings so I believe that people are still making plans.
“Bookings may be slow, but we suspect this may be due to everyone still being in the Chinese New Year mood, and still entertaining guests with festive dinners.
“But guests are making plans for Valentine's Day,” the staff said.
The staff added that guests seem to have acclimatised themselves to the pandemic situation regardless of the number of daily reported cases.
“Perhaps with the announcement from the government to anticipate an Omicron wave, we may see a slow down after the Chinese New Year/Valentine's festive period, especially in March.
“Having said that, we do still have event enquiries too,” the staff said.
Say it with flowers
As for bespoke florist Happy Bunch, they too have been adjusting to clientele's new demands on customising orders.
Its staff, who only wanted to be identified as Wong, said Happy Bunch had never suspended operations at any time during the pandemic, and instead continued to do well even after Covid-19 arrived on Malaysian shores.
“We have been doing very well in fact, as this was something people could do which requires very little contact.
“We didn't lose any orders for Valentine's Day regardless of the recent announcement about Omicron; instead we only received calls to reroute deliveries,” said Wong when contacted.
Wong added that during the pandemic period, they had been doing relatively well, especially during Valentine's Day.
“People have found new ways to celebrate Valentine's Day and that gave us an opportunity to expand our creativity too,” he said.
A quiet Valentine's
Ever aware that the Covid-19 situation has yet to subside, Yap Su-Ling, an accountant, said she has chosen to have food delivered to her home for Valentine’s Day.
“Actually, we tried to make reservations, but restaurant bookings were full and that gave us a hint that the restaurant might be packed.
“So we have decided to order in. It is still the same, minus the romantic lights, but what's important is that we are still able to plan a Valentine's Day dinner. We are thankful for that,” Yap said.
For Karen Tee, a make-up artist, she took the cue from her cancelled trip back in 2020 and did not make any reservations for a holiday outside Kuala Lumpur.
According to Tee, she had surveyed a few hotels in town where she could organise a staycation.
“For now, this will do and this is way better than last year when the entire country was under a lockdown.
“At the same time, we found a quiet location, less commercialised, which also means a lower chance of contracting the virus as there are not many people there,” said Tee.
On the other end of the spectrum, preschool teacher, Farhana Wahab, said she had decided to postpone all festive celebrations, including Valentine's Day, as Covid-19 infections remain on the rise.
“Just yesterday, I found out a friend became a close contact at her workplace, and for that, she had to be quarantined for 10 days. She had to reschedule all her appointments and plans.
“I don't want that to happen to me as I have to teach preschoolers. This is a high risk to take. Better to be safe than sorry,” said Farhana.
No room at the inn
Meanwhile, a member of Sunway Velocity Hotel’s brand marketing and communication department, who asked to remain anonymous, said growing public awareness of the Omicron variant has affected hotel bookings.
“Bookings have been slow, especially this month.
“Cancellations mostly came from corporate guests where they did not wish to proceed with meetings.
“As for travellers, the number of cancellations is approximately 1 per cent, but regardless, it still contributes to the impact on the hotel,” she said.
She also said previously, the hotel had little difficulty securing up to 70 per cent occupancy during Valentine's Day season.
“Each time there is a Covid-19 wave, it affects hotel bookings,” she said.
At another hotel in Petaling Jaya, its staff, who also asked not to be named, said this year they decided not to offer any Valentine's Day packages, as they expected Chinese New Year celebrations to take precedence.
The staff, who requested a non-disclosure of the hotel name as well, added that the pandemic has affected business one way or another, but declined to furnish further details.
“But our food and beverage outlets are still doing well. They have not been affected,” said the staff.