F&B sector hit hard by early mall closures during outbreak
Restaurant association says shorter hours mean fewer people at outlets for dinner
Various shopping malls here have announced shorter operating hours amid the coronavirus outbreak as part of the industry's moves to help retailers get through this tough period.
But the decision has brought more dismay to the food services sector.
Mr Andrew Kwan, vice-president of the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS), told The New Paper that shorter operating hours mean emptier restaurants.
The 53-year-old, founder and group managing director of Commonwealth Capital, which manages food and beverage (F&B) businesses such as Pastamania, Swissbake, The Soup Spoon and Udders Ice Cream, said that earlier mall closures do not work well for restaurants.
"With shopping centres closing earlier, customers won't come in to dine because they think our outlets are closed. Operating hours for all Pastamania and Swissbake outlets islandwide remain the same," he said.
Shops in Ion Orchard have shortened operating hours and are now open from 11am to 9pm.
Those in CapitaLand Malls such as Bugis Junction and Plaza Singapura could operate shorter hours, from 11am to 8pm, the mall operator said on Feb 13.
Tangs Orchard and OG have also adjusted operating hours.
Said Mr Kwan: "The operating hours from 7pm to 9pm are precious to restaurants because that's when people go for dinner after work. The shorter hours unfortunately do not help us."
It may not help restaurants alone to stay open later because fewer people go into the malls once other outlets close. And even those who are there may not stay on just for food.
One shopper, Ms Kendra Lee, a 24-year-old student, was at Ion Orchard on Thursday night when shops were starting to close before 9pm.
"I wanted to grab a quick bite but stores were packing up. I left earlier and had dinner at home instead," she said.
RAS has announced that the F&B industry has seen at least a 50 per cent dip in business since the first infection. It has appealed to 24 mall operators for rental rebates.
Mr Edwin Fong, executive director of RAS, told TNP that Changi Airport Group (CAG) has responded with a 50 per cent rental rebate for its tenants over the next six months.
"Rental takes up about a quarter of the operating cost of F&B businesses. We look to landlords to help their tenants in this national time of need," he said.
CAG also announced shorter operating hours for tenants on Feb 20. This does help in reducing costs.
Al-Azhar Group chief executive officer Muhammad Husain Mansoor, 33, told TNP that all three of its restaurants, in Tampines, Bukit Timah and Geylang, now have shorter operating hours.
"There has been a dip in business so closing earlier might help in offsetting some costs, like operational costs," he said.
"Plus, we need to sanitise the premises so more time is needed for that."
Mr Husain added: "At the same time I want to make sure my workers get enough rest, especially during this time."