Food and beverage (F&B) operators are again urging the federal government to allow dining-in at restaurants, saying that many in the industry may soon join the growing number of Malaysians who are going hungry every day.
In a joint press conference today, at least six organisations representing the F&B industry said that there were an estimated 200,000 F&B establishments as of 2020 — based on a 2016 census by the Department of Statistics which approximated 167,490 of such establishments, with an annual growth rate of 5.1 per cent.
They said that assuming each F&B outlet hired an average of five Malaysians, the current dine-in ban potentially affects one million livelihoods.
“Which is worse, lines and lines at soup kitchens, or two people dining in at restaurants?” prompted Industries Unite co-founder Datuk David Gurupatham.
Jeremy Lim, vice-president of the Restaurant and Bistro Owners Association (PPRB), said that government statistics on unemployment — which was at 4.5 per cent in May — may not reflect the many F&B employees who have been kept on unpaid leave over the past few months.
He said that although many restaurants have yet to fully let go of their employees, they will be forced to do so in the next two months if the situation does not improve.
“Many F&B operators have less than two months of cash flow left. We are anticipating at least a 60 per cent closure rate if the ban continues, with at least 500,000 households affected.
“We are not asking for handouts, instead we need the government to be reasonable. The F&B industry has been a significantly small contributor to new clusters because many businesses have been compliant.
“We appeal to Putrajaya, let our people come back to work, save small businesses and let us contribute to the nation again,” he said.
Lim added that there will always be errant operators, and that the majority of the industry wants to work with the authorities to curb these bad hats.
The joint press conference included representatives from HAPA Group, F&B Connects (FBCM), Professional Culinaire Association (PCAM) and the Malaysia F&B Executives Association (MFBEA).
Currently, under the National Recovery Plan, dining-in at restaurants is banned, even for states that have entered Phase Two such as Kelantan, Pahang, Perlis, Perak, Terengganu and Sarawak.