The pandemic has changed a lot of routines in our daily lives. People are now adapting to doing everything from home and are supposed to avoid leaving the house. Eating out is also forbidden but as always, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Restaurants and eateries have started offering ‘serviced meals’ for customers to enjoy in their car. While eating in the car may have been toeing the line of breaking SOPs, these meals may have overstepped the boundary.
Since MCO 3.0 was implemented, diners have once again, been banned from eating at restaurants. They are, however, allowed deliveries and take-aways. In a sudden burst of creativity, restaurants and eateries ‘developed’ a new dining mode to add to their business. Similar to eating in a restaurant, these businesses offer the same dining services in customers cars. They supply the meal with dishes and cutlery, even offering soup and drinks.
Some companies went a step further, allowing customers to make reservations. Customers would then be able to park their cars in given spaces outside the stores where they would be served their meals. Some also provided trays which can be attached to the steering wheel for the customer’s convenience. Once the customers are done, they can signal the restaurant staff to clear their ‘tables’. The mode was further developed when Bak Kut Teh restaurants started offering plastic stools to act as tables for customers in the back seats of their cars.
As pictures and videos showcasing this new form of dining were broadcasted on the internet, debates sprung up about whether it is in line with the given SOPs. According to the SOPs given, restaurants are not allowed to offer dine-in meals but are allowed to offer packaged meals for take-aways. As such, it is believed that the “Park and Dine” mode violated the SOPs. South Klang district police chief ACP Shamsul Amar Ramli stated that providing tableware to customers was disallowed. However, as the “in-car service” was not explicitly banned in the SOPs, Shamsul Amar felt that was a grey area. He said he would consult the National Security Council (MKN) for clarification on the matter. “I think it’s not a problem (if I) used my own tableware and ate in the car,” he stated. “But the restaurant provides tableware and service, so it shouldn’t be (allowed).”
Selangor executive councillor Ng Sze Han (黄思汉) however believes the model has indeed violated the SOPs. According to him, the government banned dine-ins to reduce the chance of contact between people. Diners should be taking packaged meals home or to the office to eat. Klang Municipal Council member Li Fuhao (李富豪) agreed with him, saying the model opposes the function of the SOPs and violates their efforts to prevent the spread of the epidemic.
Similar to Shamsul Amar, Li sees no wrong in eating in the car. However, this is because there is no service offered if the customer packages the food and has their meal in the car. “If (service is offered), the customers in the car may be friends from different residences,” he pointed out. “What’s the difference (between this and) dine-ins?” He also observed that the model heightened the risk of contact instead of lowering it. There would be a risk of infection as the staff would approach the car after the meal to remove the eating utensils.
Li firmly believes people need to be more self disciplined and cooperate to stave off the pandemic. The most basic requirements of the SOPs are to dine at home and avoid gatherings.
Hopefully businesses and restaurants can consider implications and risks to the community before implementing any other ‘clever’ ideas.
Update (24th May):
Police Commissioner of Sarawak, Datuk Aidi Ismail, stated that park and dine service is prohibited.
“This service violates the SOPs. Only takeaway is allowed. Preparing food to be eaten in cars is not categorised as takeaway,” he said. “This activity can be compounded as it doesn’t adhere to the SOPs. I would like to emphasise that serving customers by bringing it to their vehicles and collecting the food containers from the customers when they are done is not takeaway.”
Source: China Press