F&B businesses come to grips with new circuit breaker measures, but some unsure what to do
SINGAPORE: Food and beverage outlets are quickly adjusting their operations as more stringent "circuit breaker" measures kicked in on Wednesday (Apr 22), but some businesses CNA spoke to still had questions on what they were allowed to do.
According to tightened rules announced on Tuesday evening, standalone outlets that sell only beverages, packaged snacks, confectionery or desserts have to close. Manufacturing plants that make items such as cakes, ice cream and chocolate are also banned from operating.
Some businesses, which requested not to be named, said earlier on Wednesday they were still clarifying with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on whether they can operate and what they are allowed to sell.
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One such company sells snacks and beverages as well as hot food, while one bakery said that it was not sure if it should fulfil online orders for cakes from before the stricter measures were announced. Another bakery selling mainly pastries, such as croissants, said it would wait for instructions from MTI before deciding its next step.
MTI had clarified that bakeries that sell mainly bread are exempted from the suspension, but if they normally sell other items such as cakes, then only existing cakes can be sold and new ones cannot be baked for sale.
Bakeries that sell mainly bread, such as Four Leaves bakery, remain open but those that sell mostly cakes, such as Bengawan Solo, are shutting for the time being.
READ: From bubble tea runs to getting a haircut: What you can or cannot do under tighter COVID-19 circuit breaker rules
For bakery chain Bengawan Solo, the cakes and kaya that it has in stock are going to food charity Willing Hearts and to migrant workers through Project Chulia Street.
It will also continue to pay the salaries of its roughly 400 workers from the over 40 retail stores and the central kitchens, said Mr Henry Liew, director at Bengawan Solo.
Bakery PrimaDeli said in a Facebook post that it will be “suspending all cake production with immediate effect” but told customers to "keep a lookout for updates on our outlet operating hours on both our website and social media platforms". Two franchisees of the PrimaDeli chain told CNA they will shut their stores as most of the products will not be available.
Old Chang Kee, known for its curry puffs, said most of its stores or 60 outlets remain open for takeaway and delivery as the business falls under the "hot/cooked snacks or bread” category. The closed outlets are located in the city or tourist belts, and have been shut since the start of the circuit breaker on Apr 7.
BreadTalk bakeries and Toast Box cafes remain open but will sell only bread, toast and packaged drinks.
As for shops selling multiple food items, the ministry takes into consideration what they predominantly sell.
“For example, if you predominantly sell hot meals and some selection of desserts, you can continue sales of all the food items that are not within the manufacturing suspended scope,” the ministry said.
CNA saw a shuttered Jollibean outlet on Wednesday, but Mr Bean, known for its soya milk, said most of its shops will stay open.
Mr Thomas Koh, COO of Mr Bean, said the 55 outlets that are open for takeaways also offer hot food such as rice bowls and porridge, while outlets that sell only desserts will close for now. The brand has also launched a website to take orders for deliveries.
One exception in the new rules is that dessert and beverage outlets in hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts are still allowed to operate. This applies to businesses like Lao Ban Soya Beancurd, which said on Facebook that some outlets will stay open, such as the one at Old Airport Road hawker centre.
READ: COVID-19 circuit breaker extended until Jun 1 as Singapore aims to bring down community numbers ‘decisively’: PM Lee
Meanwhile, shops that sell only coffee and tea will also be shut, but cafes like Starbucks will remain open for takeaway and delivery as the coffee chain also offers food. Starbucks told CNA that, for now, some outlets are closed, including one at Parkland Green in East Coast Park, as all F&B businesses in parks must suspend operations.
Other shops affected are those that sell mainly snacks such as nuts, potato chips, popcorn and bak kwa. While their physical stores will close, retailers like Bee Cheng Hiang and Irvins Salted Egg are encouraging customers to order the snacks online.
SAFE DISTANCING MEASURES
The eateries that remain open also told CNA that they have put in place safe distancing measures and precautions at their stores.
These include taking the temperature of their workers twice daily, requiring them to wear masks and to keep their distance from other workers, delivery riders and customers. Most said they have increased the frequency of cleaning at their stores.
Old Chang Kee said that it has reduced staff strength by 20 per cent across all its outlets and in its central kitchen “to cope with the new guidelines”.
Fast food chain KFC said it has implemented a “contactless takeaway” system at its 78 outlets and customers are alerted when their order is ready, so there is no need for them to wait at the restaurant.
“For the safety of our older staff who are considered the ‘at-risk’ group, we have reassigned them from the front line counter to do lighter work in the kitchen to minimise their contact with customers,” a spokewoman said.
A&W, which has two outlets in Singapore, said it requires its employees to wash their hands hourly with anti-microbial handwash. It also encourages cashless payment to minimise contact between customers and servers. Starbucks said it is encouraging customers to order in advance before heading to the store.
The tightened measures came as Singapore extended its circuit breaker period for four weeks until Jun 1. On Sunday, fast food chain McDonald’s announced it would suspend operations until May 4 after seven employees contracted COVID-19.
CNA has contacted MTI for comments.