Due to the ongoing community quarantine in some parts of the country, restaurants had to stop accepting dine-in customers to avoid crowding of people in one place. These food establishments had to resort to opening their business for deliveries and take out orders only, and some also released ready-to-cook packs in groceries and their own stores.
But after a recent deliberation by the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), dine-in customers will now be allowed in restaurants—given that they observe proper health protocols. According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, only 30 percent of a restaurant’s capacity will be allowed to dine in while under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
“At least makapag-umpisa man lang yung mga trabaho, maibalik agad sa ating mga kababayang nasa restaurant lalo na itong dine-in operation. Kasi malaking portion ng mga restaurant ang dine-in, mga 70 to 80 percent po yan,” Secretary Lopez says. (Read: Legazpi Sunday Market Announces ‘Soft Re-opening’)
According to the Trade Secretary, the resumption of dine-in services in restaurants is in “preparation for the eventual de-escalation of the quarantine” in Metro Manila and similar areas in the near future. Once the Metro shifts from the GCQ to the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), restaurants will then be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, seeing that the MGCQ is the loosest form of quarantine. (Read: Will table barriers be the ‘new normal’ in PH restaurants?)
Secretary Lopez emphasizes that physical distancing must be observed always and tables in restaurants should be spaced 1.5 meters apart. Installation of acrylic or clear barriers is also encouraged to avoid fluid contact. In addition, staff and customers alike have to all wear face masks and observe proper hygiene to prevent further spread of the virus. Any restaurant or food establishment that will not observe proper health protocols will be warned and may be closed, the Trade Secretary says.
To prepare for the strict dine-in measures set by the IATF and the DTI, some restaurateurs have met and discussed how their respective businesses will go about with the dine-in setting during the pandemic.
Jackson Go, CEO of Vikings Group of Restaurants, says customers will now be waiting for their food at their table instead of going to the buffet table for self-servicing. He says that the buffet tables are now covered and separated so customers cannot touch the food and keep it clean and safe for everyone. The CEO says they are also looking into digitizing their menu so customers would only have to order from their smartphones and the food will be delivered to their table.
Meanwhile, Chef Edward Bugia of the F&B for MFT Group of Companies and co-owner of the Pino Group of restaurants says they are applying the “oxygen mask” rule in airplanes. This means that their staff has to check themselves first to ensure that they are healthy and in good condition to serve customers. “We want to equip our staff first with the best safety protocols, procedures, and equipment,” Bugia says.