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Diners, F&B outlets elated as curbs eased in time for festivities

Bigger groups patronise eateries; restaurants receive higher volume of calls and e-mails over the weekend

When housewife Judy Seah, 65, learnt last Saturday that she could dine out with her extended family, she immediately texted them to organise lunch.

"We are a very close-knit family and there are many of us. When restrictions were tighter, it was quite frustrating as we were not able to see them often," said Madam Seah, who had lunch yesterday at the Food Junction foodcourt in Junction 8 in Bishan with her two sisters-in-law and a niece, who live near her and her husband.

Up to five fully vaccinated people from different households can dine together at restaurants and eateries, up from two previously, after Covid-19 curbs were relaxed.

But Madam Seah is hoping restrictions can be eased further to allow eight to 10 people to dine together.

"That way, our family can meet again and we won't have to pick and choose who can join us for a meal and who can't," said Madam Seah, who has an extended family of more than 30 members.

Hotels and restaurants The Straits Times spoke to said they received a higher volume of calls and e-mails over the weekend after the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic announced relaxed measures last Saturday.

These were for new reservations and to modify existing reservations to accommodate bigger groups.

At Regent Singapore, this was most apparent at Italian restaurant Basilico and the hotel's Tea Lounge, which typically see larger groups.

"We also saw a surge at (cocktail bar) Manhattan, where our guests are all adults, and mostly from different households... the easing of restrictions for them was long-awaited," said general manager Oscar Postma.

There was a similar spike in reservations at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, especially at its all-day eatery, Colony.

"Going into the festive season, we are confident that reservations will continue to pick up, as it has been a long time since a larger group of extended family and friends have been allowed to enjoy a meal together," said Mr Stephen Moroney, the hotel's assistant director of food and beverage.

At around lunchtime yesterday, a number of diners were spotted in groups of three or four, with only a handful of groups of five at malls such as Junction 8, Nex, Raffles City, 313@somerset and Ion Orchard.

Mrs Linda Tan, 45, was spotted walking around Raffles City with her seven-year-old daughter and three of her friends while deciding on a lunch venue.

"We haven't seen each other for almost a year, so when we heard the news on Saturday, we were really excited," said Mrs Tan, who is self-employed.

Staff at food and beverage (F&B) outlets were concerned about groups flouting the rules and intermingling.

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Ms Tan Zhi Yin, 27, supervisor at Tamago-EN, an egg speciality restaurant located at 313@somerset, said: "With the five-person dining-in rule, (I anticipate) people will start coming in groups of six, seven, eight and so on... we have to split them up but they will demand to sit at tables next to each other."

But others say the new rules, which no longer require them to verify people's addresses, will help them.

"I'm happy about the new rules because it means more customers (can come in), and we save time by not having to check their addresses," said Mr Yung Fu, 25, a supervisor at Ya Kun Kaya Toast at Nex.

At 7.30pm, there were groups of five spotted at Heartland Mall in Kovan, but just as many groups with three or four people at eateries like Saizeriya and Sanook Kitchen.

Over at Jem in Jurong East, lines had formed outside casual dining restaurants like Pepper Lunch.

From today, 11 hawker centres and seven coffee shops are allowed to accept groups of up to five vaccinated people from different households.

Among them are Market Street Interim Hawker Centre and Tiong Bahru Market, where ST saw officials setting up plug points and iPads at entry points, as well as additional cordons to facilitate the flow of diners ahead of today.

The remaining hawker centres under the National Environment Agency (NEA) and NEA-appointed operators will have entry and vaccination checks by Nov 30, after which they will be open to groups of five vaccinated people from different households.

Food & Drink