Hoteliers seeking a fairer dine-in policy

BAHRAIN’S top hoteliers are calling for a fairer way to determine the dine-in capacity of restaurants as they welcome customers indoors after a seven-month shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic by taking size and space into consideration.

Since some restrictions were lifted on October 24, more than 10,000 restaurants and 130 cafés have been adhering to a 30-person limit, in line with the Health Ministry’s guidelines.

The aim is to stop the spread of the virus but smaller outlets have been able to create a bubbling ambience even with social distancing in play whilst others have been left like echoey chambers.

Fares Yactine, general manager of Gulf Hotel Bahrain, which houses 17 food and beverage establishments, told GDN: “Our regular capacity ranges from 60 people to 220 people each, depending on the size of the restaurant.

“While we completely agree with the need to limit capacity due to social distancing concerns, a 30-person limit reduces our capacity by as much as 85 per cent for our larger establishments, even if there is room to accommodate effective social distancing.

“We would prefer if the guidelines were based on a percentage of the capacity since this would be fairer to the larger restaurants and as a market benchmark.”

As the kingdom completed its first full weekend since the restrictions were relaxed, numerous restaurants have expanded to offering both indoor and outdoor dining options to accommodate patrons and their families now the weather has cooled.

Some have limited the time that diners spend at their table and require bookings to minimise waiting times for customers, especially during weekends when demand is high.

“During busy times such as weekends, we have begun offering seating times to meet the demand,” said Ritz-Carlton Bahrain director of sales and marketing Jeremy Canivet.

“So far this is going quite well, and our visitors are appreciating our extra efforts to accommodate them.

“We are blessed to have 12 restaurants to choose from, and the majority have both indoor and outdoor seating which allows us to maximise our capacity whilst adhering to government regulations.”

The Gulf Hotel has implemented a waiting list system on the weekends, with some outlets being booked days in advance.

And restaurants which offer private dining rooms and separate sections are still required to adhere to the 30-person limit even if these areas are separated from the rest of the venue.

Mr Yactine believes that the capacity for these areas should be treated as separate entities.

“Allowing restaurants to have up to 30 guests at one time is certainly a step in the right direction, and clearly shows that Bahrain is succeeding in the fight to stop the spread of the virus,” added Mr Canivet.

“For indoor dining, the dining capacity should be based on persons per square metre, in my opinion. This would be a more equitable method, as some restaurants are larger than others and can accommodate more guests, while maintaining social distancing.”

When the decision to relax the dine-in rules to 30 people was announced, Health Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Waleed Al Manea said it was taken ‘after careful study and analysis’ of the current situation.




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