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Ramadan in COVID-19: How restaurants in Singapore and Indonesia keep the faith alive

19 May 2020

By: Adibah Isa

With social distancing regulations and dine-in suspensions, Chope finds out what halal restaurants are doing to serve their Muslim diners this Ramadan.

“We just want to make the best of whatever we are doing,” shared an employee from The Malayan Council, one of Singapore’s most popular halal restaurants with two outlets nestled along Dunlop Street and Bussorah Street. It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by all F&B folk throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic — but for halal restaurants in Singapore and Indonesia, the impact has hit them harder this Ramadan season.

With Muslims making up a bulk of their diner database, halal restaurants typically bank on Ramadan as a period of promising revenue. A holy month that’s centred on strengthening one’s faith as well as relationships with family, friends, and the community, Muslims around the world usually gather for prayers, sahur (pre-dawn meal), and iftar (breaking fast). While sahur is typically prepared at home, iftar is often a social occasion where Muslims frequent halal restaurants for buffets, banquets, and large gatherings, with seats filling up fast.

But with social distancing, lockdown and circuit breaker measures in place, the spirit of Ramadan takes an inward turn. Restaurants bear the brunt of it, with most pivoting to delivery and takeaway to serve diners at home. Fortunately, food remains central to the Ramadan experience as both nourishment and a reminder of blessings — how can restaurants take this essential need further?

Tweak the menu for social gatherings, at home
Indonesia’s nationwide #DiRumahAja (“Just do it at home”) has been instrumental in encouraging the public to practice Ramadan rituals such as iftar at home. With this, restaurants have re-engineered their menu to sharing platters, a staple for gatherings in restaurants. Firmly believing that the ban on public gatherings should not limit the spirit of togetherness within the family, JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta’s ‘Iftar To You’ packages cater to families of up to eight persons.

Straits Cafe’s Nasi Dulang

In Singapore, Straits Cafe tweaked their menu to offer Nasi Dulang sets for four, where a myriad of dishes are shared in a big platter — typical of Ramadan meals in restaurants and mosques. They’ve also updated their delivery menu to allow for sharing and easy takeaways. For Ramadan, instead of Straits-inspired staples such as Chic Kut Teh or Nyonya Laksa, they’ve tuned their palate to offer more rice-based dishes with influences from Indian, Malay and Mediterranean cuisine.

Making it easier for diners, halal restaurants in Indonesia have also turned to multi-day catering and BukBer (“breaking fast together”) packages, retailing on ChopeDeals. Diners simply book a package online and arrange for delivery, with two, three, and five-day packages across all budgets.

Fill in the gaps
With mosque closures, restaurant dine-in suspensions and travel restrictions, Muslim diners are missing a lot of what makes Ramadan special. Here’s where restaurants took the opportunity to fill in the gaps. In Indonesia, where returning to one’s hometown is discouraged, many are longing for a taste of home. Noticing this issue, JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta’s culinary team introduced local dishes from different parts of Indonesia in the hotel’s delivery menu.

With COVID-19 restrictions, Muslims are not able to enjoy Bubur Masjid, a porridge that is always given out at mosques for the community. Straits Cafe saw this gap, offering their Bubor Ramadan complimentary with every set for four, together with dates, a must-have for iftar meals.

Strengthen social connection
Halal restaurants know that distancing doesn’t mean disconnecting. To connect with their local Muslim diners, JW Marriott Jakarta tried something new by writing their social media copy in Bahasa Indonesia — a first for them. While restaurants have aced their delivery product by sending out greetings along with the food, Straits Cafe also tweaked their communications accordingly, hand-writing cards with “Ramadan Kareem” and “I hope this brightens up your day!” to send love and encouragement.

Encourage gifting
COVID-19 has seen individuals, communities, and companies paying it forward like never before. This generosity of spirit is further explored in Ramadan, a month where Muslims are encouraged to give to the needy, as well as send food to their family and friends. In Singapore, Straits Cafe’s #Stayhome Surprises Campaign encourages diners to surprise their loved ones by having food and messages delivered to them.

“This campaign has shown us that food is a catalyst to form a bond and connection among people even without meeting each other,” shared the restaurant. “We have been receiving orders from one family to be delivered to another.”

JW Marriott’s Ramadan Hamper

In Indonesia, gift hampers are all the rage, with products ranging from cookies, sweets, dates, and even prayer mats. Utilising ChopeDeals as an online retailer, restaurants and hotels such as Gran Melia Hotel Jakarta, JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta and Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta offer attractive Ramadan hampers that encourage diners to order for their loved ones.

A little extra
Everyone needs to feel special during these trying times. Despite the lack of face time in dine-in services, halal restaurants are going the extra mile this month to ensure that their Muslim diners are keeping calm and carrying on.

A favourite with Indonesian president Joko Widodo, Jamu Empon-Empon is a drink made of natural herbs, believed to strengthen the immune system. JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta includes a bottle of this traditional remedial elixir in their deliveries for an added touch.

The Malayan Council’s Lobster Ambeng

The Malayan Council’s founder and owner Hafiz Alkhatib sees to every order, replying each diner personally. Fans of this halal restaurant in Singapore are already familiar with the freebies enjoyed then they dine in — and they can expect the same complimentary items in iftar deliveries.

Are you a halal restaurant in Singapore pivoting to delivery? Get in touch to find out how Chope On Delivery can reach out to Muslim diners this Ramadan and Hari Raya.

Thinking of retailing your dining vouchers, BukBer packages or meal kits in Jakarta and Bali? Check out how ChopeDeals can support your restaurant business.

Adibah Isa

A digital and print journalist turned content manager for brands that believe in the power of storytelling.


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