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Resto Owners: Foot Traffic Better Than Expected Under New Scheme

Resto Owners: Foot Traffic Better Than Expected Under New Scheme
Service workers clean furniture upside-down at a multi-themed restaurant in Marikina City on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The owner of Pan de Amerikana hopes to open the restaurant next week once an official sticker of compliance to guidelines under Alert Level 4 from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is received. Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine STAR

A restaurant group is upbeat on prospects for the sector in the fourth quarter, citing the increasing vaccination rate and the better-than-expected customer turnout during the first two days of reopening under the pilot Alert Level 4 in Metro Manila.

Resto PH president Eric Teng said in an interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News Friday night, Sept. 17, restaurants witnessed better foot traffic in the first two days of the Alert Level 4 system being tested in Metro Manila, which allowed the resumption of dine-in operations.

“We were surprised (on Thursday, Sept. 16). It wasn’t a tremendous kind of atmosphere but it was healthier than expected and (Friday) was also a good day. But it’s never a dangerous situation. It’s never a crowded situation where people are lining up or crowding just to get to a restaurant. That’s not the case at all,” he said.

Under Alert Level 4, restaurants can offer indoor dine-in at 10% capacity only to customers fully inoculated against COVID-19, and up to 30% capacity for outdoor or al fresco dining for customers regardless of vaccination status.

Teng said customers not accommodated immediately due to the indoor dine-in operating capacity cap were asked to come back at a certain time.

He said those who did not bring their vaccination cards but wanted to dine indoors were encouraged to order takeout instead or turned away in the case of restaurants with no outdoor dining option.

Despite low operating capacity allowed for dine-in, he said many restaurants are grateful to be able to offer the service again.

“There are certain restaurateurs who would rather not open at 10% capacity. It sometimes is also painful to open at 10%. But for a large part of our membership, 10% is already better than zero,” he said, noting delivery service accounts for a small portion of sales.

With the third quarter coming to a close and the country’s vaccination rate rising, the group has a positive outlook for the last quarter of the year.

“I am very optimistic,” Teng said when asked of his outlook for the fourth quarter, as he cited Metro Manila’s steadily rising vaccination rate.

The optimism is also anchored on the Filipinos’ celebration of the Christmas season.

“For December, you can’t take away Christmas, you can’t take away the Christmas spirit. We Filipinos are made for the Christmas spirit. It’s all about us, it’s all about the lechon, it’s all about the noche buena. That’s not going to go away. Whether your Christmas feast will be in the restaurant or sent to your home, that depends on what happens in the next few weeks, the next few months,” Teng said.

As the country continues to battle the pandemic, he said the group wants the government to continue to work vigorously with the industry.

“All I want is for the government to have a dialogue with us and we can come up with some of the answers, we can come up with some solutions,” he said.

Not enough

For presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, the 10% indoor venue capacity would still not be enough for restaurants and personal care services sectors to recover their financial losses.

He said he hopes more vaccinated individuals would be allowed to dine-in in restaurants and enter personal care services in the coming weeks.

“Hopefully, as we move forward, this will go up to 30% and eventually, 50%, moving higher for the vaccinated,” he said at a televised media briefing.

“That’s (10%) too low but it’s OK if we do it for one or two weeks and then we raise it,” he added.

But overall, the move to allow dine-in and personal care services in Metro Manila is a welcome development.

“I hope with this approach, the granular lockdown and giving more mobility to the vaccinated, we will be able to see how we can co-exist with COVID-19, this Delta variant,” he said.

Concepcion agreed that the government had to take “baby steps” to eventually open the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The important thing is we push everyone to get vaccinated,” he said.

He cited data from the Philippine General Hospital which showed about 85% of COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated or have received only one dose of the vaccine.

“Definitely if more people have been vaccinated, we can allow people to go out, especially the vaccinated ones,” Concepcion said.

“We have to prevent the unvaccinated from getting to the hospitals,” he added.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier said the pilot implementation of the COVID-19 alert level system in Metro Manila is expected to generate P180 million a week in revenue and bring back about 200,000 jobs in restaurants and personal care service establishments.

Concepcion said they are also pushing for the opening of gyms and spas.

He said he also met with representatives from the airline industry to discuss measures to help the battered sector recover.

“So, this is the group that we are trying to help be-cause they are in danger right now, the way I see it, on business viability,” Concepcion said.

He said one of the suggestions during the meeting with airline companies and IATF medical adviser Edsel Salvaña was to reduce the quarantine period for tourists.

“Maybe we can reduce the quarantine of incoming passengers back home to the Philippines down from 10 days plus four days at home to maybe seven days. That’s also a big factor in the expenses of tourists who come here, even local tourists,” he said.