F&B worker ends up eating in toilet cubicle after mall staff prevent her from using common areas

Another cafe's staff told her that they would 'just endure hunger until the end of her 8 hour shift'.

Nigel Chua | April 11, 2020, 03:31 PM

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Tighter restrictions kicked in earlier this week, under the month-long circuit breaker period from Apr. 7 to May 4.

While some confusion remains over what is and is not allowed in the circuit breaker period, enforcement action has been meted out swiftly.

F&B worker shares experience

An F&B worker, Mabel Ng, encountered some issues when looking for a place to have her meals, as dining in at F&B outlets is now strictly prohibited.

She took to Facebook to share about her experience in a series of FB posts.

Day 1: Nowhere to go during lunch breaks

Ng's first such post, dated Apr. 8, reads:

Due to safe distancing measures, frontline F and B staff who work in takeaway stalls have nowhere to go during our lunch breaks. Yesterday, almost got chased out because I was sitting outside my stall eating a curry puff. There's some blind implementation here.

She then outlined her "game plan" for the day's lunch break, featuring the following possible locations:

  1. A "clean, deserted toilet cubicle".
  2. An unused nursing room.
  3. A nearby bus stop, which Ng described as a "loophole".

Day 2: Mealtime in a "clean, deserted toilet"

Later that day, she posted this picture of herself having her meal in a "clean, deserted toilet", which she said was located in a nearby mall:

F&B worker having her meal in a toilet cubicle Image via Mabel Ng on Facebook.

Ng said that her boss had asked security staff at her workplace for suggestions on where F&B workers could eat, and was offered the mall's bicycle parking lot.

This however, would not be viable unless one was merely eating finger food, she said.

According to Ng, another cafe's staff told her that they would "just endure hunger until the end of her 8 hour shift".

Chased out by security

In another post, Ng revealed that her day had involved advising others not to eat in public, and getting "chased out by security".

"While most are saving the world by WFH and staying in, I'm saving the world as a frontline F and B worker by eating lunch inside toilets with as much secrecy as someone shooting illicit drugs." she said.

Day 3: Sneaking into closed hawker stalls

The next day, Ng recounted a discussion with fellow F&B staff who revealed that they were sneaking into closed hawker stalls which were "pitch dark", for their meals.

When Ng attempted this, however, she was discovered by a member of the mall's staff, who had a torchlight.

Photo by Mabel Ng on Facebook.

Ng concluded: "Eating in the toilet is still the most secure."

"Somebody has to voice out and highlight how mall staff are blindly implementing these #circuitbreaker measures without any thought", she added.

Day 4: "Hunkering down"

Ng's lunch break on her fourth day at work took place in slightly better conditions, however. She posted a photo of herself "hunkering down in the kitchen of a closed affiliated diner".

Ng said, "At least I don't have to worry about aerosol transmission of fecal matter when I eat. Anyway these two words are things which by right should never have to be uttered in the same sentence."

Ng's location likely to be Funan mall

While Ng did not explicitly reveal her location, several clues from her posts suggest that she is likely working at Funan mall:

  • A comment on her first post suggests that she consider sitting at St. Andrew's Cathedral, which is adjacent to North Bridge Road.
  • The picture of Ng's fried rice lunch on Day 3 is described as a treat by a fellow F&B staff working on the same level as her. The packaging of Ng's food resembles the takeaway boxes used by Wok Hey, an F&B chain with an outlet in B2 of Funan.
  • Ng mentions in a comment that she "ate a whole MacD breakfast in Funan's toilet."

In response to queries from Mothership, a Funan spokesperson said that employees of tenants at Funan can have their meals in their own shop units, or in a designated dining section within the food court, which has been created with approval from the authorities.

Funan food court dining section for staff Photo courtesy of Funan.

Mothership understands that this has been in effect since Apr. 10. 

Here is their response in full:

"During the circuit breaker period, employees of tenants can take their meals in their shop units. Alternatively, they can use the designated dining section in the food court meant for all staff working in Funan, which has been set up after approval from the authorities."

Other essential service workers faced similar struggles

Deliverymen and taxi drivers have also been unable to find proper places to sit down and have a meal, and have been spotted eating while sitting on the ground, or in their vehicles.

Hawkers, on the other hand, may consume their meals at the table immediately in front of their stalls, an NEA spokesperson confirmed on Apr. 10.

However, they should dine alone, at off-peak hours, and keep a distance of at least one metre from any other person, said NEA.

As for patrons, NEA said that they, too, could sit while awaiting their takeaway orders, taking care to maintain safe distancing, and to avoid sitting on seats demarcated as not to be occupied.

Top image via Mabel Ng on FB