Gov't considers allowing restaurants limited dine-in operations: DTI chief

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2020 05:44 PM | Updated as of May 21 2020 07:40 PM

People pass in front of a shuttered restaurant in Quezon City on April 29, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Philippine government is looking at the possibility of allowing restaurants to resume dine-in operations but in limited capacity, to avoid several food joints from declaring bankruptcy, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Thursday.

Dine-in operations account for 70 percent of a restaurant's revenue, Lopez told senators in a hybrid hearing after Sen. Cynthia Villar said that several food operators are planning to file for bankruptcy as sales from take-outs and deliveries are not pushing businesses to break-even.

"Sa Saturday (On Saturday), we will be visiting fastfoods and restaurants and we will look at their capacity to implement health protocols," Lopez said.

"'Pag tayo po ay nakumbinsi naman na safe kumain at mai-implement yung (If we are convinced that it's safe to dine and they can implement the) minimum health protocol, we shall allow them [to resume dine-in operations]," he said.

Lopez said operations will be limited to half of a restaurant's full capacity to ensure that physical distancing guidelines would be observed.

"Malaki yung chance na ma-approve yung dine-in. We just have to see if the health protocols can be applied," he said.

Villar, whose family runs several malls and a coffee shop chain across the country, said the government should approve the resumption of dine-in operations as 50 percent of micro and small businesses in the country are in the food industry.

"Karamihan ng restaurants, hindi sila magaling sa delivery. Magaling sila sa sit-in... 'Pag hindi niyo pinagbigyan ang mga sit-in restaurant, magde-declare sila ng bankruptcy," she said.

(Many restaurants are not good for deliveries. They are better with sit-in... If you don't allow sit-in restaurants, they will declare bankruptcy.)

Restaurants in areas under community quarantine have been barred from serving dine-in customers to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

Other countries in Europe and Asia have started to allow dine-in operations, but required restaurants to install plastic or glass dividers between tables and chairs. Other businesses have started enforcing no-contact payment policies to further curb the spread of the highly contagious virus.