Restaurant owners welcome 30% dine-in capacity

A diner eats lunch at a restaurant along Doña Pilar Road in Brgy. Sasa, Davao City on Monday. The Department of Tourism on Sunday has allowed restaurants in areas under the general community quarantine operate at 30-percent seating capacity for dine-in customers starting Monday. Edge Davao

Restaurants in Davao City can now open their in-dining services to a maximum of 30 percent seating of their dining area capacity starting June 15, 2020, based on the latest provision of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) of the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases. 

“Well its better than zero dine-in. Kasi bagong amendment iyan sa General Community Quarantine (GCQ). I understand that cautious approach of the government,” said Benjamin Lizada, president of the Restaurant Owners Association of Davao City (RestoDC) Inc.

Last week, restaurateurs in Davao City lamented their “zero sales” status but still spending the same expenses that include rental fees and income taxes amid the COVID-19, the new coronavirus 2019, pandemic.

Majority of these restaurants consider commercial space rental as the biggest item in their cost structure and because people are still afraid to go to restaurants due to COVID-19, it is impossible for these restaurateurs to generate income. 

Prior to the new provision, restaurant owners resorted to take-out services, however, according to Lizada, income is not enough and adding to the problem is the presence of unlicensed and unregistered home-based food providers that started to thrive amid the pandemic. 

“RestoDC is not against unlicensed/unregistered home-based food providers per se. Times are difficult. Nangita ra pud na sila og panginabuhi. As far as RestoDC is concerned, they can very well sell in their neighborhoods. But only in their neighborhoods and sell to family and friends,” Lizada said.  

Lizada emphasized that these home-based food providers should not be allowed to sell in the entire Davao City market via legitimate food delivery outfits like Grab, Food Panda, Cinderbel, etc. as the restaurant sector is already suffering huge losses with take-out only operations and the 30 percent dine-in. 

He explained that these unlicensed and unregistered food providers don’t pay taxes, rent and employees’ salaries to pay such as taxes for garbage collection, street lights, barangay health centers, city hall employees’ salaries, and many more. 

“That’s why they can sell lower. A lot lower. If government allows it, what is the message? The legitimate restos can now go underground, invent a new name, tweak their menus/products and sell online as well. We are equipped to do that with our commissaries and our cooks/chefs. We will decimate these unlicensed/unregistered providers if we also stop paying rent, taxes and huge salaries. We will win but government will lose in the process, which means, we will all lose. That’s just for the restos. Imagine if everyone is allowed to sell other products unregulated like groceries, medicines, apparel, etc. The list is endless. Unsaon na lang ang fair competition and consumer protection?” Lizada said.

Lizada said RestoDC sent a proposal to a senior national government official for the guidelines to be dynamic and continuously responsive to the demands of the market and the safety and general welfare of the dining public.

The group proposed for the creation of a specialized economic recovery teams in regulatory offices to work closely with private sector and explore WHAT IF scenarios to craft guidelines for re-opening. The group also emphasized that the composition of the team should be carefully chosen. 

“We just need to be creative and very patient. This will spell the speed of our recovery compared to other countries. We should not assign the crafting of guidelines to regular government office staff. One or two templates for all will not hack it – e.g. barriers for face-to-face dining. This attitude should change! Entrepreneurs are a resilient lot and we are willing to experiment and spend. LET US,” the proposal read.

“Hindi lang para sa resto, kundi sa lahat ng pwedeng buksan they should coordinate with the sector regularly kasi nga bumabago ang situation. Very fluid and no one template must be made to stay for so long,” Lizada said.