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‘Our livelihoods are at stake’: A restaurant manager’s plea to diners to follow Covid-19 rules

It has been a turbulent 21 months for Singapore residents, no thanks to Covid-19.

‘Our livelihoods are at stake’: A restaurant manager’s plea to diners to follow Covid-19 rules

Diners at a restaurant in Downtown East in Pasir Ris on Sept 27, 2021, when the Government capped group sizes for restaurants to two vaccinated persons per table.

Ong Hoe Yeen

It has been a turbulent 21 months for Singapore residents, no thanks to Covid-19. 

Regulations have been adjusted regularly to combat the coronavirus.

A regulation that has not stayed constant has had the greatest public impact. 

Dine-in restrictions have see-sawed from a blanket ban to the present cap of two fully vaccinated diners per table at all eateries, including coffee shops and hawker centres.

If diners find it stressful to cope with the ever-changing rules, try to imagine the situation from where I stand as a restaurant manager. 

What we are experiencing is unprecedented even for an old hand like me with 27 years’ experience in this sector.

Not only do we have to align our business with the inconsistent regulations and deal with significant revenue drops, getting tough on diners so that they follow the rules is becoming part and parcel of our job.

It has been nearly three weeks since the Government allowed only groups of two vaccinated persons to dine at restaurants. 

Yet there are still many who blatantly disregard this. 

These are selfish individuals who do not care about the livelihoods and safety of food-and-beverage (F&B) workers. Instead, they focus narrowly on their own interests.

I have encountered many tricks people employ to beat the system. 

I came across one customer who used his friend’s TraceTogether contact-tracing token to check in to our restaurant, while his friend used the TraceTogether mobile app. 

Had we not been vigilant and spotted the similarities in identification numbers as shown on our SafeEntry Business app, they would have gotten away.

This bunch is still easy to deal with, as parties simply leave sheepishly when caught in the act. 

More horrendous are those who insist on getting their reservations acknowledged for more than two vaccinated persons. 

Despite government guidelines, these diners will insist that we acknowledge the reservation by breaking up the party into smaller groups of two. 

Some even went to the extent of using the “I’m your regular customer” card.

Regular or not, by getting us to accept your illegal booking, it is as good as saying beating a red light is perfectly fine and we will get away unscathed. 

Allow me to stress that it is not fine. This selfish act could lead to the closure of our business and loss of livelihoods. 

If an F&B operator is caught flouting infection controls, the risk of fines and closure is real. 

In difficult times like these, this would send an eatery to its grave.

And, with any closure, jobs are bound to be lost. 

As a manager, it is my main duty to protect my employer’s business and the livelihoods of my co-workers. 

You may yell at me over the phone and think that I am being inflexible for not bowing to your demands. 

But, if we were to change positions, would you put your colleagues’ jobs at risk to please a selfish person? 

Unless you are inhumane, I am sure we have the same answer.


Mr Ong Hoe Yeen is a restaurant manager, mixologist and sake sommelier. He has been in the F&B industry for 27 years. 

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