Thailand: Restaurants jittery on new restrictions

Restaurant operators are worried new state measures to curb the wave of Covid-19 infections will halt their recovering sales.

An executive at Laem Charoen seafood restaurant who requested anonymity said because seafood is mostly consumed freshly cooked at restaurants, more than takeaway or delivery, his company anticipates a sales decrease.

The government order on Monday that restaurants and street vendors stop dine-in services from 9pm to 6am from Tuesday to reduce the risk of the virus spread comes a day after a set of new restrictions was issued to halt the pandemic.

The new restrictions, including a ban on the use of buildings at schools and educational institutes, and activities that could transmit the virus such as meetings, seminars, banquets and food handouts, apply to 28 red zone provinces including Bangkok.

“Our customers visit our restaurant at noon and in the evening. We expect the number of customers in the evening will decline by 50%,” the source said. “Our overall sales are expected to decline by 30-50%, depending on location.”

The source said the Laem Charoen outlets in downtown areas are likely to experience less impact as customers in the central business district are capable of adjusting to the delivery channel, compared with those living in other residential areas.

Ladda Sampawthong, president of the Restaurant Business Association, said sales of each restaurant are expected to drop by 45% given the new restriction on service hours and alcohol sales.

“If the new restriction is applied for more than one month, big restaurant operators are likely to experience a harsher impact from this measure because they hire so many employees,” said Mrs Ladda.

“This will also affect several parts of the industry from labour to raw material suppliers. More people will become unemployed.”

Prapat Siangjan, chief operating officer of Minor Food Group, said though the new restriction on service hours affects the company’s operation and sales, the company believes the impact will be minor compared with the strict nationwide lockdown implemented last year when all restaurants were ordered closed.

He expects the restriction to mainly affect Sizzler and Swensen’s in Minor’s chain of restaurants because people still enjoy dine-in more than takeaway and delivery.

“We still have high hopes for a recovery this year after the government updates about how the vaccine is to be distributed in Thailand, and the return of foreign tourists by the middle of this year,” Mr Prapat said.

“Based on our experience from the first outbreak, we will resume stricter safety measures and beef up our sales via takeaway and delivery.”