GEORGE TOWN: Despite the rise in prices of imported ingredients, restaurants are already seeing their bookings filled for year-end gatherings and Chinese New Year reunion dinners.

Mushroom, sea cucumber, fish maw, waxed sausages and glutinous rice – all the things loved during the reunion dinners are set to become much more expensive, with prices going up by at least 20%.

Penang Koo Soo Kwong Choon Tong Restaurant and Tea Shop Association chairman Vinah Yee foresees a rise in prices for set dinners due to the increase in costs for imported ingredients.

However, compared to the past two years, Yee said bookings for dinners, especially during Chinese New Year, have improved tremendously.

“We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and business is definitely picking up as compared to Chinese New Year last year.

“We can now put more than 10 people at a table.

“Reservations for Chinese New Year reunion dinners have been coming in since early November and only a small number ordered takeaways,” she said.

Reservations for year-end company dinners have also started trickling in, said Yee.

“Many companies prefer to have their year-end dinners before Chinese New Year,” she said.

Such banquets are usually held by big companies before the end of the year as a gesture of appreciation to their employees.

Restaurant manager, YM Ooi, 44, said bookings for Chinese New Year dinners started coming in early November.

“We are still in the midst of finalising our Chinese New Year special menu,” he added.

Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang chapter chairman Tony Goh said many companies have opted for small lunch and dinner events at hotel restaurants.

“I believe many companies prefer to have their annual meals on a smaller scale to be on guard against Covid-19,” he said.

On the supply of seafood, fishmonger Oh Puey Ping, 28, said the Chinese pomfret remains the hardest fish to find in the market.

Much larger and with thicker flesh and a more greyish hue than the typical silver pomfret, this fish is much yearned for during Chinese New Year dinners.

Oh said restaurants have been snapping up the fish since two months ago by offering better prices.

“The price of prawns will keep on increasing until Chinese New Year. This is the norm every year due to the increase in demand. We predict the price of prawns to increase a few folds by the festive season.”