COVID-19 & Food Delivery Services

2 min read
A look at the changes that have been happening in the food delivery scene since COVID-19 arrived on our shores.

The pandemic has seen a new normal in Singapore. Ever since the Circuit Breaker (CB) was introduced, the demand for food deliveries has surged. With dining out not allowed during CB as well as CB Exit Phase One, more Singaporeans have resorted to ordering food online and having them delivered to their homes instead. With this booming demand, more delivery platforms are entering the market to give competition to the big three: Foodpanda, Deliveroo and GrabFood.

With some businesses facing problems and forced to close or downsize, some of these former employees have resorted to doing delivery as a means to tide over this difficult period. This feeds into the delivery start-ups, and consumers in general have more delivery choices and, in some cases, pay less for their food deliveries. However, with this sudden influx of delivery services, there have been complaints of poor quality of service, such as delays and order cancellations.

Anything new needs time to settle and work out the kinks, but the pandemic’s arrival saw new players jumping in with a ‘the early bird catches the worm’ mentality. Many rush to accept orders for food delivery even though they don’t have their own pool of riders or drivers; instead, they tap on third-party transport firms such as Lalamove, Zeek and even private-hire companies to make deliveries.

This has led to many of these platforms tapping on the same pool of delivery riders and drivers. Inevitably, delays and cancellations have risen as riders could not be assigned in time, especially during peak periods and special occasions, such as Mother’s and Father’s Day.Foodpanda has a policy that food must to be delivered within the hour. Their riders are trained on proper food handling and hygiene practices, such as cleaning and airing their storage bags after each shift. This is something that some of the new platforms do not offer. So complaints started popping up of customers receiving their food late, or sometimes not at all; of unruly service; or riders not wearing masks or practising social distancing. Some were even given the wrong orders, or have spillage issues or even unplanned bonuses, such as an extra box of beef rice!

Some high-end restaurants that worry about tarnishing their reputation have resorted to delivering their own orders to avoid such situations. A local Japanese restaurant transport their raw fish and other dishes in cooler boxes with ice, which are delivered by the restaurant managers themselves. Proper packing and handling practices go a long way to keep food fresh and orders coming.

Now that we are into CB Exit Phase Two, and dining out is gradually allowed, we may see fewer players in the food delivery scene. If it becomes unaffordable and delivery standards are not maintained, we may yet see another shift in the local food delivery arena.