Minister defends ‘funny-sounding’ 20-minute dine-in time limit

Indonesia’s Home Affairs Miniser Tito Karnavian pictured in April 2020. Photo: Facebook/Kemendagri
Indonesia’s Home Affairs Miniser Tito Karnavian pictured in April 2020. Photo: Facebook/Kemendagri

The government doesn’t seem to appreciate the jokes and memes in expense of the eyebrow-raising 20-minute dine-in time limit, justifying its enforcement on the fact that other countries have done it before.

In case you missed it, the government slightly relaxed the Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities (PPKM) protocol on Sunday, with one notable change being that restaurants located in areas with the strictest level of restrictions are now allowed to serve dine-in customers for 20 minutes.

Related — Munch in 20 minutes: New dine-in rules, concessions to small businesses as PPKM mobility curbs eased

The rule has attracted much ridicule and scrutiny by the public, and Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian yesterday went at length to defend it.

“Why is the time limit so short? It’s to discourage lingering at the restaurant. If there’s a lot of chatting, laughing, conversing, that would create [COVID-19] transmission risks,” Tito said during a press conference yesterday.

“Maybe it’s a funny-sounding rule, but overseas, other countries have enforced it.”

Tito did not specify which countries have enforced the rule, but after doing some reading online we could see that table time limits have been enforced in the likes of the US and the UK (sometimes independently by restaurants), where vaccination rates are much higher than Indonesia’s.

On key difference between their rules and Indonesia’s is much longer time limits — over 60 minutes — giving diners enough time to be able to enjoy their meals at a reasonable pace. The rule is also motivated by business as much as health, as it discourages lingering on tables while increasing customer turnover to compensate for reduced capacity.

So how exactly have Indonesians been ridiculing the 20-minute rule? For one, an association of warteg (a modest stall or kiosk selling affordable food) businesses named Kowantara just could not swallow the impracticality of the rule.

“Those who eat at wartegs aren’t only children and young people. There are old people, too. Old people have to eat slowly. If we rush them they might choke on their food,” Kowantara Chairman Mukroni said today.

Of course, there were memes, including one featuring Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan being timed while eating at a warteg.

While this meme, featuring a man telling his server to hurry up as he had only 18 minutes left, rightly asks the question if 20 minutes includes meal prep time (this point was left vague by the government).

Also during the press conference, Tito said police and military personnel will be deployed to monitor restaurants’ compliance with the 20-minute rule, though it’s highly unlikely that there is enough manpower for uniform enforcement of the rule. Hopefully enforcement of the rule does not discriminate towards smaller food and beverage businesses.

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