Dining’s New Normal in Singapore – Here’s what to Expect from F&B Industry

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When you arrive for dinner, a thermal imaging scanner takes your temperature, while the masked staff check you in at your table. As each elaborately plated dish is laid before you, your (still masked) server stands a discreet distance away as he or she explains the thinking behind the creation, and the provenance of the ingredients. If the voice sounds slightly muffled, not to worry as they will be stepping up voice training to make sure they can communicate effectively through the mask.

It’s not the ideal fine dining experience but he still couldn’t be happier.

According to a survey conducted by AI-powered restaurant solution provider TabSquare that polled 560 Singaporeans, 50 per cent of them will start dining out immediately after restrictions are lifted, with the number going up to 90 per cent after a few weeks of lifting of the restrictions.

Respondents stressed that these F&B businesses must comply with safe management measures — 90 per cent of them expect restaurants to have them in place — to ensure utmost hygiene control.

F&B outlets must have in place Safe Management Measures to protect customers and staff from the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Restaurants, cafes and other outlets that serve dine-in customers are required to make sure customers check in and check out using safe entry to facilitate the efficient collection of information for contact tracing.

You will also be required to have your temperature taken, unless the restaurant is in a mall, which would already be doing so. If the restaurant operates outside the mall’s operating hours, the restaurant needs to conduct temperature screening. Customers are only allowed to dine in a group of no more than five people, with at least one-meter spacing between groups or tables. Making reservations and avoiding dining during peak hours will help reduce queues and crowds, as well as reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Customers should expect that F&B outlets maintain good standards of hygiene such as cleaning tables between each group of customers and using hand sanitisers after handling cash or high-touch surfaces and devices. Serving utensils should also be provided for customers who are sharing food.

SOCIAL DISTANCING GETS CREATIVE

Some food and beverage establishments have come up with fun ways to enforce safe distancing guidelines. Diners at fast-food chain Burger King are required to keep “approximately 20 onion rings away” from the next person, according to the advice printed on its plastic table separators. Or you can dine like a social distancing king by donning a giant crown. With a circumference of 3.14m, it ensures you are a meter from your dining companions.
Over at eight KFC outlets, the fried chicken brand’s iconic founder Colonel Sanders is helping to maintain social distancing. His 2D cut-outs will sit among diners at outlets including those at Jem, Novena Square, Waterway Point and Compass One.

At other F&B outlets, the use of table shields has been picking up. Koufu foodcourt at Thomson Plaza put table shields up recently to separate diners seated at the same table. The dividers are also placed between chefs and diners seated at the sushi counters. Chefs serve sushi directly to diners via a hole at the base of the dividers.

THE NEW-LOOK DINING ROOM

Across most upscale restaurants in town, you’ll find more elbow room and physical space, which is great for diners but not necessarily for the bottom line as seating capacity is cut to accommodate strict safe distancing measures. Adjusted layout to make sure there were proper waiting/pickup areas for delivery and crowd management. QR codes on each table so guests can view the menu on their phones.

CURFEW WOES

While it has been full house all the way for most upscale eateries mainly because of reduced capacity, the 10.30pm curfew on alcohol consumption has been a “hindrance”

Prediction is that there will be loss of late-night seating as outlets need to stop food and drinks service at 10.30pm. One has to be spot on with timing – if things go wrong you can’t really buy time, because the last course can’t be after 10.30pm.

CONCLUSION

Singapore is a nation that loves food with such passion, we can look forward to rediscovering the joys of dining together. It’s hard to predict what the future holds but diners are expected to be more conscious of their choices and increasingly value quality over quantity — seeking out exceptional dining experiences.