KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — Malaysia’s cafes and restaurants made a strong recovery with a 30.8 per cent growth rate in business in the last three months of 2021 as more resumed dining-in, after having suffered a decline for the rest of the year in 2021, retail research firm Retail Group Malaysia’s latest report showed.

In its March 2022 report released today, Retail Group Malaysia noted that cafes and restaurants’ sales had shrunk by 6.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, and further declined by 10.9 per cent in the second quarter and by 0.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, before making the comeback at 30.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

For the entire 2021, this resulted in cafes and restaurants having an overall double-digit growth of 14.3 per cent.

Included under the cafes and restaurants category are fast food restaurants, coffee cafes, bakery cafes, full-service restaurants and caterers.

In observing the trend, the research firm noted that almost all food and beverage outlets had by the last quarter of 2021 been allowed to open for business with normal operation hours, while diners returned to physical premises to enjoy their meals while observing social distancing rules.

As interstate travel restrictions were lifted by then and with Malaysians allowed to visit families and friends and tourist attractions nationwide, food and beverage outlets that were dependent on tourists “were alive again”, the report noted.

“During the same time, many office workers were allowed to return to their companies to work. Food and drink outlets located in city centres, business districts and major commercial areas welcomed office workers back for breakfast and lunch. Face-to-face business meetings also boosted sales of cafes and restaurants,” the report said.

As for food and beverage outlets in the take-away, kiosk and stall category, this category’s growth rate was -9.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, 37.5 per cent in the second quarter, -11.1 per cent in the third quarter before recovering to 28.6 per cent in positive growth in sales in the fourth quarter. For the entire year of 2021, this category grew by 5.2 per cent in sales when compared to 2020.

This category includes food outlets that only cater for takeaways, and bakeries without seating.

Retail Group Malaysia said food and beverage outlets are expected to continue to enjoy strong sales in the first quarter or first three months of 2022, with the Chinese New Year celebrations last month having encouraged families and friends to hold social gatherings in large restaurants and with interstate travel during the long festive holiday also having boosted sales in tourist-dependent towns and resorts.

The research firm said cafe and restaurant operators expect their businesses to climb by 31.2 per cent during the first quarter of 2022 as compared to the first quarter of 2021, while food and beverage kiosk and stall operators are expecting a slight increase in business at 1.9 per cent for the same first three months of 2022.

The report was based on interviews with members of the Malaysia Retailers Association (MRA) and Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) on their retail sales performance for the entire year of 2021 and their projections for the first quarter of 2022. 

The research firm also noted however that some food and beverage outlets are now going through slower sales with many starting to avoid public dining places, following the high numbers of daily new Covid-19 cases after the festivities.

The Chinese New Year celebrations this year were marked with two days of public holidays in Malaysia on February 1 and February 2.

Based on the Health Ministry’s CovidNow website, the daily number of Covid-19 cases in the country went past the 20,000 mark for the first time this year (and also the first time since September 2021) on February 11. Amid the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, new Covid-19 case numbers had stayed above the 20,000 mark and had also crossed over above the 30,000 mark several times over the past two weeks.