What will travel and dining be like in a top foodie destination like Macau? In Travel Weekly Asia’s Macau series, we unpack the city’s dynamic dining scene as local restauranteurs, chefs and staff offer insights about dining out in the new normal.

Postcards from Macau: Dining in Asia’s culinary capital in the new normal

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A true foodie destination, Macau's many restaurateurs and eateries have come up with creative ways to up the game, ready to whet travellers appetites when they return to the city again.
A true foodie destination, Macau's many restaurateurs and eateries have come up with creative ways to up the game, ready to whet travellers appetites when they return to the city again.

While global travel is currently restricted, many destinations have already taken solid and positive steps to prepare for the eventual recovery of the tourism sector – and Macau is one of them.

As of August 21, 2020, Macau has had zero new domestic cases of Covid-19 for 144 consecutive days and all businesses have reopened. China’s Zhuhai resumed approvals of the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) to Macau starting August 12, followed by Guangdong on August 26, and other China provinces from September 23.

“The Macau Government has taken a highly responsible attitude to Covid-19 since the very beginning. All citizens take great personal care; everyone wears masks and carries a personal sanitiser. In my view, Macau is one of the safest places in the world,” said Eileen Stow, Chief Executive at Lord Stow’s Bakeries & Cafes, one of the city’s top tables.

Macau’s F&B sector, like tourism, has not been spared the impacts from the Covid-19 crisis. However, many restaurateurs and eateries in the city have responded to the situation with resilience and tenacity, not to mention creativity and innovation in greater servings than before to whet travellers appetites when they return to the city again.

Hygiene and safety standards have hiked up, whether in large hotels, or street side restaurants.
Hygiene and safety standards have hiked up, whether in large hotels, or street side restaurants.

1. Healthy and mindful eating standards

From the integrated resorts to generations-old restaurants, adherence to safety and cleanliness standards are a topmost priority across Macau’s myriad dining outlets. Sanitisers are prominently placed and floors are clearly marked with social distancing stickers, while guests are provided a folder or bag to store their face masks during their meals.  

At Sands Resorts Macao, kitchens are deep cleaned daily while 24-hour operating restaurants are additionally sanitised section-by-section once weekly. All reusable contact items are wiped, and all service stations, carts, handrails and trays are sanitised hourly. The IR has also received the government’s Safe Guard Hygiene Excellence and Safety Label protocol certification, supporting the operational restart of the hospitality and restaurant industries.

Currently, guests have to wear their masks upon entry into restaurants, removing only once seated, while temperature checks and contact tracing steps are no longer in place, according to Amy Kuan from Fernando’s Restaurant, one of Macau’s most acclaimed restaurants specialising in authentic Portuguese cuisine.

Amid current social distancing norms, Fernando’s spacious venue in an alfresco setting is a definite advantage, with its location in Coloane near Hac Sa beach also drawing locals who commute specially from the city for its fresh air and scrumptious offerings, added Kuan.

For Seng Cheong Macau, customers are given tables amongst the more airy zones first, and “because Macau isn’t as severely hit, it’s still okay to not have limits on seating per table,” said Miss Chen, owner of the acclaimed seafood establishment.

Sands China: Contactless payments in Macau have largely already gone electronic prior to Covid, and encouraged even more so now.
Sands China: Contactless payments in Macau have largely already gone electronic prior to Covid, and encouraged even more so now.

2. Tucking into an evolving dining scene

The five F&B operators that Travel Weekly Asia spoke to already have stringent hygiene standards in place, including the donning of gloves among kitchen staff and waiters passing dishes and provision of serving utensils for communal dishes.

“All food preparation staff wear and regularly change gloves, an existing practice in our company for 30 years,” said Stow. Tables are also wiped down with alcohol, another measure put in place since the SARS outbreak in 2003.

At Seng Cheong Macau, it also means retaining practices that continue to be relevant in such times, including the use of paper placemats which have traditionally been in used at the 30-plus-year seafood restaurant, said Chen.

However, some modifications to services are required in the adjust to new norms. At Sands China, staff no longer fold and unfold guest napkins or wipe down crumbs in the middle of meals, whereas condiments are served in individual portions upon request. As well, tasting menus are suspended temporarily in preference for set menus to minimise food sharing in view of hygiene concerns. Such subtle adjustments aside, fine dining remains an enjoyable experience, shared the Sands China spokesperson.

With payments in Macau largely gone electronic prior to Covid, contactless solutions are even more favoured and encouraged in the wake of the pandemic. Sands Resorts Macao, for instance, is running a promotion to encourage guests towards contactless payment.

Some F&B have taken the opportunity to innovate, such as casino operator SJM, who partnered with AOMI - Macau's first online food delivery service platform - offering delivery services.
Some F&B have taken the opportunity to innovate, such as casino operator SJM, who partnered with AOMI - Macau's first online food delivery service platform - offering delivery services. Photo Credit: University of Macau

3. What’s cooking next

Macau has always championed food sustainability, a practice that is now pursued with greater fervour for Sands China, which recently begun working with an AI food waste technology solutions provider Winnow Vision. The initiative is currently undergoing a test phase at the integrated resort, and if it proves successful Sands China will be able to reduce its food wastage by 30% across its F&B outlets, and will roll out the plan across its buffet and high-volume restaurants by Q4 this year.

Meanwhile, casino operator SJM (Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, S.A.) has additionally partnered with AOMI, a local food app so locals can enjoy takeaways from any of their three restaurants – which have all recorded a significant boost in business since the collaboration in March.

Others have also seen this as an opportunity to grow their following, with many F&B eateries big and small running promotions to entice the local market.

With restaurants and dining outlets fully operational across Macau, there is no shortage of tantalising offers and experiences visitors can tuck into when they are back in the city.  

For ongoing updates and fresh inspiration on how you can regroup clients towards Macau, visit www.macaotourism.gov.mo.

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This article is brought to you by Macao Government Tourism Office.

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