Five-person limit for dining: One-third of Mother’s Day weekend bookings cancelled at some restaurants in Singapore

A worker at Hinode Izakaya and Bar separating tables that would normally seat up to eight. ― TODAY pic
A worker at Hinode Izakaya and Bar separating tables that would normally seat up to eight. ― TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, May 6 — Food-and-beverage (F&B) outlets looking forward to a busy Mother’s Day weekend are now dealing with several booking changes and cancellations, with some restaurants estimating a 30 per cent drop in customers. 

This is after it was announced on Tuesday (May 4) that from May 8 to 30, the size of social gatherings and the daily number of visitors for each household will be cut from a maximum of eight to five.

Many eateries and restaurants that had bookings for six to eight people have had to reach out to customers to reduce the size of the groups. 

Of the 18 F&B places that TODAY approached yesterday, 15 of them said that some of their customers had cancelled reservations in relation to the restrictions. They had called the customers to ask if they wanted to downsize but many customers chose to cancel instead.

Ouyang Guo Ying, manager of Hinode Izakaya & Bar at Jalan Besar, said that the restaurant had three cancellations, from two tables of eight and one table of six. 

She added that with Mother’s Day coming up, business should have picked up with more families dining out. 

“(These cancellations) will affect revenue by about 20 to 30 per cent, but we also understand why the restrictions are in place,” she said. 

Chinese restaurants badly hit

Chinese restaurants, in particular, were badly hit since they tend to attract big families, their representatives said. 

A receptionist at Wah Lok Cantonese restaurant in Carlton Hotel, who did not want to be named since she is not supposed to speak to the media, said that for lunch on this coming Saturday alone, she has cancelled 12 bookings.

This is more than half of the 20 large tables in the restaurant. The team has yet to sift through all the dinner reservations and call its customers, she added. 

At Ban Heng Restaurant in Orchard Central mall, more than 10 tables were affected by the new restrictions. 

Its sales manager, Jae Soh, said that only “one or two” customers decided to downsize their group to five, while many cancelled their reservations.

However, about six groups managed to shift their reservations from the weekend to Friday, the day before the restrictions kicked in, Soh said, so the restaurant is almost fully booked for that night. 

Likewise, Chinese restaurant Si Chuan Dou Hua said that about 35 per cent of its customers cancelled bookings, while some customers have moved their reservations to Thursday and Friday instead.

Benny Chung, general manager of Parkroyal on Kitchener Road, where the restaurant is located, said that the firm expects a 30 per cent drop in revenue over the weekend. 

Over at Swatow Seafood Restaurant in Toa Payoh, after it informed customers of the new restrictions, 30 per cent of its weekend bookings were cancelled. Of those that cancelled, only a third of them opted for takeaway. 

Its restaurant manager, May Leong, said that families who wanted to sit together chose to cancel. She also said that splitting tables for larger groups may happen under such circumstances when customers provide different names to book tables. 

Split-table arrangements are prohibited under Covid-19 regulations. 

The Singapore Tourism Board, one of the government agencies tasked to monitor such violations, stated on its website that F&B establishments should not accept reservations or walk-ins for groups with more than five persons, even if they are split across multiple tables.

The latest change in regulations did not affect restaurants that cater to smaller groups as much.

Yellow Pot at Little India, which serves modern Chinese cuisine, has not seen any booking cancellations so far because none of its weekend table bookings are for more than five people. 

Its F&B manager Shahrul Ariffin said: “Normally, we cater more for couples and small families of four. We are not seen as a typical Chinese restaurant.” 

Decisions, decisions

Bessie Soo, 55, had booked a table for eight people on Sunday to celebrate Mother’s Day with her mother and family at a Teochew restaurant, but had to downsize the booking to five people. 

Soo, who works in the healthcare sector, said: “I thought of cancelling at first, but felt bad because some of the dishes had to be prepared in advance.”

The rest of the family who could not attend will arrange for a separate meal next week with her mother, she added. 

For 26-year-old Clement Chan, who works in the consumer healthcare sector, his family had booked a Mother’s Day lunch on Sunday for eight, and decided to cancel the booking upon knowing the new restrictions. 

“My mum decided to cancel the whole thing, as she would rather involve everyone or none at all,” he said.

“I thought it could be a good occasion to show our appreciation for our mums, but looks like it has to wait.” ― TODAY

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