Malaysians get a taste for in-car dining during lockdowns

A waiter serves a customer outside Padi House restaurant. Reuters/Lim Huey Teng.

Diners in Malaysia can now enjoy restaurant meals from the safety and comfort of their vehicles after an eatery started a drive-in service for people eager to eat out during a coronavirus lockdown.

The Southeast Asian nation is in its fourth week of nationwide restrictions imposed as it grapples with a surge in coronavirus infections that has pushed the cumulative total to more than 230,000 cases, with more than 800 deaths.

Customers dine in their car outside Padi House restaurant. Reuters/Lim Huey Teng.

In Cyberjaya, a tech-centred satellite city on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, customers drive into the parking lot of Padi House restaurant and order from laminated menus through the vehicle windows.

Customers dine in their car outside Padi House restaurant. Reuters/Lim Huey Teng.

Each set meal comes on a customised tray that fits in the narrow space between driver seat and steering wheel.

“I work at the bank so its not a suitable environment for me to eat. I prefer to go out and sometimes we need a change in scenery so that I can enjoy my food, even in a car,” said Nor Shekin Nor Razali, who had lunch with a colleague last week.

The restaurant has closed its dine-in service and, like most eateries in Malaysia, had been offering takeaways only.

Owner Leow Kim Ngan said the inspiration came from airline meals after business dropped 80 per cent due to the pandemic.

“It’s very challenging, we have to think of a new way to find more income,” said Leow.

Malaysia is currently at its peak of infections, averaging more than 4600 new cases per day.

Infection numbers have been climbing steadily since the end of September. A second nationwide lockdown, which bans social activities and inter-state travel, is due to end on February 18.

  • Additional writing by Angie Teo; Editing by Martin Petty and Alex Richardson, of Reuters.

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