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The Food Opera food court at the Ion Orchard shopping mall remain open only for takeaway and delivery services for now. ― TODAY pic
The Food Opera food court at the Ion Orchard shopping mall remain open only for takeaway and delivery services for now. ― TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 12 — Some food and beverage (F&B) establishments are still choosing to limit dining-in group sizes to fewer than five people, even though new dining-in rules that kicked in on August 10 allows them to serve groups of five vaccinated people.

Others, such as the Food Opera food court at the Ion Orchard shopping mall, remain open only for takeaway and delivery services for now.

Speaking to TODAY, eateries cited space constraints that meant that it would be challenging to enforce the required 1m safe distancing between groups. Other oft-cited reasons were manpower limitations and the inconvenience of having to carry out strict vaccination checks on larger groups of diners.

While F&B operators were thankful that the dining-in had resumed, some also found that they needed more time to adapt to the new dining-in rules, which were announced just before the long weekend on August 8, the managers of these establishments said.

In response to queries, a BreadTalk spokesperson confirmed that one of its Toast Box outlets at MyVillage shopping mall in Serangoon will allow a maximum of two people per table due to safe distancing measures and capacity limits for the venue.

Another Toast Box outlet in Tiong Bahru caters only to groups of no more than four, the spokesperson added.

“Nevertheless, our staff at Tiong Bahru will still assess the situation and add another table for the fifth diner if space permits, (while) abiding to the safe distancing measures,” he said.

An electronic sign placed outside the Food Opera food court, which is operated by BreadTalk, informed diners that dining-in is not permitted from Aug 10 to 18.

Some fast food outlets still prohibit dining-in

Based on TODAY’s checks yesterday (August 11), at least two fast food chains have not resumed full dine-in operations in all their outlets.

Fast food chain Burger King, for example, has allowed dining-in at only 35 out of its 56 outlets islandwide, it announced on its Facebook page on Tuesday.

More than 20 KFC outlets here will also resume dining-in of up to five people on Aug 12, instead of at the earliest possible date of Aug 10.

Six KFC stores, including the outlets at Bugis Junction shopping mall and Jurong East Sports and Recreation Centre, will only allow takeaways instead of dining-in even after Aug 12.

TODAY has reached out to KFC and Burger King for comment.

Thong Vilai Vongse, the proprietor of Narrative Coffee Stand at Bras Basah Complex, said he is permitting only groups of two to dine in at his cafe due to limited seating and the need for safe distancing.

“We want to make sure that there is ample space for everybody. So for now, just two vaccinated people in a group can dine in since there are limitations to how many groups we can house as well,” said Thong.

Prior to the pandemic, Narrative Coffee Stand could accommodate more than 10 diners within its shop space, and also has an al fresco sitting area for customers.

With the safe distancing rules now, however, he said that if groups of more than two people arrive at his cafe, his staff would need to seat them at two tables instead of one.

“If they are not comfortable with this arrangement, I may have to turn them away,” he said.

Cannot allow unvaccinated to dine in

Even though these F&B establishments are limiting their dining-in group sizes on their own volition, it does not mean that unvaccinated persons are allowed to dine within their premises.

Unvaccinated persons may only dine in at hawker centres and coffee shops and only alone or in groups of two. They are not allowed to eat at other establishments that voluntarily reduced their group size limits.

Foreword Coffee’s co-founder Lim Wei Jie believes it is better to remain cautious for now. He has restricted the group size limit to two for his three outlets in Canberra Plaza, the National University of Singapore as well as at the Temasek Shophouse in Dhoby Ghaut.

“My landlords also agree that we should be more cautious, and for us, implementing (vaccination) checks on larger groups of diners might be a hassle for us,” said Lim. “Two people are easier to check.”

While he hopes to eventually be able to serve larger groups of customers, Lim urged people to understand the logistical complexities that F&B businesses have been going through.

“We’ve been hearing some stories about unvaccinated people trying to game the system in order to dine in. We’re already doing our best to check on everyone, so we really do not wish these stories to happen to us,” said Lim.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the authorities are aware of instances of unvaccinated people trying to dine in by using someone else’s vaccination certificate.

“Don’t do that. We are aware such illegal practices are going on. The authorities will enforce against this, and offenders will face severe penalties. It is not worth it,” said Ong, who is also the co-chair of the task force heading Singapore’s pandemic response.

He added that those who cannot take the vaccine but would like to join their family for meals at restaurants can take a pre-event test at a provider approved by the Ministry of Health.

“It costs about S$20, valid for 24 hours. But that merely shows you are not likely to have the virus. It does not protect you from being infected. So please be careful,” he wrote. ― TODAY

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