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10 commandments for dining out in Singapore right now

Help to local businesses instead of being a hindrance

Nicole-Marie Ng
Written by
Nicole-Marie Ng
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It's been almost two months since Phase 2 has kicked in and life seems almost back to normal. Restaurants are once again packed with guests, long queues form at popular hawker stalls during lunch hour and people still try to squeeze in a drink or two before the 10.30pm restriction kicks in.

But even as we get used to the new rules of dining out, there are still those among us who try to bend or break them. We can't afford to get complacent now, and a slight inconvenience for you might mean the loss of a business for others. Here are some commandments you should be following when dining and drinking out in Singapore right now.

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Show up for your reservation
Photograph: Wine RVLT

Show up for your reservation

Gone are the days where we can rock up to a restaurant and expect to be seated in minutes. Due to safe distancing measures and restricted capacity, many places fill up fast so your best bet is to make a reservation. Unfortunately, restaurants have reported that the rate of no-shows and late cancellations have risen during Phase 2 – possibly because people are making multiple bookings in order to see what ends up suiting their whims and fancies of the day.

Don't be that person. Here's why:

"Real estate in a restaurant is highly critical as it decides if small venues like us remain in business or not," shares Alvin Gho, the co-owner of Wine RVLT. "No-shows don't allow us to plan efficiently and effectively. This behaviour not only creates a loss of income for the operators, but it also denies other customers of an opportunity to eat and drink."

Take SafeEntry seriously

If you've been flashing old SafeEntry screens – or a saved screenshot – at people without actually checking in, please stop. Not only are you putting yourself at risk because you won't be on the contact tracing list, you're also playing with the lives of others as you nonchalantly go about with your regular activities. We know all that scanning is a pain but it's a small price to pay to save lives.

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Wear your mask when not eating or drinking

Waiting for a table? Wear your mask. Placing your order? Wear your mask. Waiting for your food and drinks to be served? Wear your mask. The only time you should be taking your mask off is while you're eating and drinking. Going to use the toilet? Yup, you have to wear your mask. Bonus points for hygiene if you store your mask in a bag or container instead of stuffing it in your pocket – or worse, leaving it on the table as you eat.

Wash your dang hands

Speaking on hygiene, you should be washing your hands before you eat, even if you're not having something that's finger-licking good. If there's no toilet nearby then use some hand san.

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Be mindful of your neighbours

Make sure to leave a one-metre gap when standing or sitting next to a stranger. We're sure you smell great but everyone needs a little personal space these days. If you happen to be in a small café, try waiting outside for your to-go coffee instead.

Don't mingle between tables
Photograph: Vatos Urban Tacos

Don't mingle between tables

Dining in a group of five means just that. Five. Not seven, 10 or 20 even if you're in a private room. And if the restaurant is nice enough to seat you close to a group of people you know, don't take advantage of the situation by mixing and mingling. Stick to your table and communicate with your friends via text like the rest of us.

Sid Kim, the owner of Vatos Urban Tacos at South Beach and Vatos Cantina at Holland Village, explains why in his now-viral Facebook post. "For customers, breaching the safe distancing regulations might not seem that important, but for restaurants, it's literally a matter of life or death. Many F&B establishments are barely hanging on as it is - a massive fine and 10 days of mandatory shut down could easily be the final nail in the coffin. The livelihoods of many of our staff also depend on our staying open, so please try to be more understanding."

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Ask for a serving spoon

Most restaurants and zi char stalls are quick to offer serving spoons for shared plates but don't be shy to request for additional utensils if you need them. Keep your saliva to yourself!

Drink up by 10.30pm

In the same vein, restaurants and bars aren't being difficult when they clear your table of alcoholic beverages by 10.30pm. They're just following the rules. Make sure to place your last order well in advance so that you have sufficient time to nurse your drink before the restrictions kick in.

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Leave a tip if you can

Singapore doesn't have a tipping culture but if you can afford it, lend a helping had to your server by leaving a tip. Many of them earn an hourly wage or a monthly salary below the national average. And if you see an elderly auntie or uncle selling tissues at the hawker centre, spread a little kindness and buy a couple of packets.

Be patient

It's a brave new world we're living in and everyone is trying their best to cope and adjust. Many businesses are operating with a smaller crew so your food might take longer to arrive and service might be slower as more stringent cleaning protocols are in place. People who work in food and beverage put themselves on the frontlines each day just so we can enjoy ourselves and regain some semblance of normalcy. For that, be respectful, be patient and be kind – showing your appreciation goes a long way.

For more on eating and drinking in Singapore

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