Cover Story: Cultural adjustments

This article first appeared in Options, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 6, 2020 - April 12, 2020.
Cover Story: Cultural adjustments
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F&B operators need to adapt swiftly to new norms in communal eating as some post-Covid-19 changes may be here to stay

I t would appear that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the food and beverage industry is cementing permanent changes in time to come. Communal eating, a hallmark of Malaysian culture and now confined to residents within a household, is spelling monumental paradigm shifts for both consumers and businesses.

Although people anticipate a hopefully normal life after the extendable Movement Control Order (MCO), new shifts in eating habits are happening as families take to home-cooked meals once again.

In the words of restaurateurs themselves, things will never be the same … at least not for a long time. While it has been broadly perceived that food operators and suppliers who provide delivery services are profiting during the lockdown, the truth is that operations are complicated by new standard operating procedures, especially with no certainty in the weeks ahead. Numerous teething issues in supply and delivery are being tackled behind the scenes as the threat of insolvency nips at the heels of businesses with low cash reserves.

For small and medium enterprise (SME) food operators, it is a fight for survival.

When the government announced the RM250 billion stimulus package on March 27, F&B players cried out at how their dire needs went unmet. “The stimulus package didn’t swing in our favour,” says Ivy Hew, CEO of F&B Connects, a network of over 200 retailers in Malaysia and Thailand.

In an effort to be positive, business owners have said the MCO presents an opportunity for a fundamental reset that will hopefully be helpful in the pallid economy after the virus is eradicated. The world has been hit by an unprecedented challenge, with nothing close to it in recent memory.

As the F&B industry scrambles to find the silver lining, many are making the decision to pivot the narrative from despair to hope in a necessary hustle to accommodate new ways of doing F&B during the crisis and after. Here are three of their stories.


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