In days gone by, tingkats were an affordable and fuss-free way to get hot, homecooked food delivered directly to the workplace or home. But as time went by, more hawker centres, food courts and in-house canteens popped up everywhere, and tingkats became less popular. Today, the reverse has happened–instead of food from home, or heading to an eating outlet, we expect our food to come to us. What started off as more of a luxury or novelty, is gradually becoming a commonplace necessity.

And the primary reason? Convenience. Room Service Singapore’s CEO, Lance Frey, notes that food delivery is booming at the moment, with the potential to grow even more. “Euromonitor says that the Singapore food delivery market is currently making around US$100 million per year. But that is a little over 1% of the total food service sector in Singapore. If you look at other countries like Turkey, this could be a $500 million market in a few years. The reason for growth is because it’s so easy to choose good food on (their) website and have it delivered to your home,”  he elaborates.

Fast food giant McDonald’s was one of the early movers, throwing their hat into the ring in 2003, and starting their 24-hours delivery service two years later, becoming one of the first food deliveries to do so. A McDonald’s spokesperson explained that this was to accommodate the changing lifestyle needs of Singaporeans, and that their McDelivery service has seen strong growth since its launch.

Over at foodpanda, they now receive as many orders in one day as they used to in a week, a year ago. Chinmay Malaviya, Managing Director of foodpanda Singapore & Hong Kong, tells BiTES that since they set up in 2012, they have grown from 50 restaurant partners to 300 today. Not only that, they’ve expanded to 40 countries around the world after the success in Singapore. “The majority of foodpanda’s users are working adults with young families. They are tech-savvy and always on the go, with easy access to the Internet and their mobile phones. Therefore, people do still cook at home but definitely less frequently as they have more food option readily available,”  he detailed. To capture more of the market, the company is investing in mCommerce–in all their markets, they have relaunched the foodpanda mobile app with a new layout with more convenient and simpler design as well as an online payment function.

Frey concurs, “The future of food delivery is over the internet and mobile. People now do their travel planning online, they do their shopping online–ordering food online is a natural additional purchase.”  Room Service has seen mobile orders double since they launched their Android and iOS app in June. “It’s really easy to use, and we expect the bulk of our customers to shift to ordering over mobile in the next year or two, given Singapore’s position as one of the highest smartphone penetration countries in the world,”  says Frey.

A TALE OF TWO DELIVERIES

Over one weekend, BiTES tested out foodpanda and Room Service from a humble abode in the west.

 

Foodpanda
It was the best of times while the folks were away, it was the worst of times for no meals would be forthcoming. It was the age of technology, it was the age of laziness. With a click of the mouse I found myself on the foodpanda website. Upon entering my postal code, many restaurant choices lay before me.

 

Which restaurant? My vision narrowed in on Nara after clicking through a few categories, as it stood out with alluring images of glossy Thai dishes.

What to eat? I picked out tord mun kung (Thai shrimp cakes) and kuay tiew tom yum kung.

How much? Including delivery charges ($8) and a (haha) 10% survival fee, the grand total was around $38.

How easy was the transaction? Registration was just a simple matter of providing them your name and address. There was a choice to pay by credit card or cash–I chose cash.

How long was delivery? After placing my order at 4.30pm, it took 45 minutes before the doorbell chimed, well before the promised one hour fifteen minutes.

What did the delivery guy say? A chirpy “your delivery is here”  with a smiley face and my package. I gave him a $50 bill and he passed me the change.

How did the food arrive? In a plastic bag were two dishes, each in an individual container; both dishes were just warm enough.

Room Service
Every household needs a bit of service now and then, everyone needs to take a break now and then. This weekend, the family thought mum should take a break, and so we looked to our mobile phones to bring us dinner. The Room Service app caught our attention this time.

 

Which restaurant? My parents left it to me to choose the cuisine, and I decided to order from Buttercake N Cream, a restaurant I had visited before at Sunset Way.

What to eat? Our family of three ordered two starters: sautéed mushroom and buffalo wings, and three mains: cheddar pork, grilled chicken and pork collar.

How much? The food was $70, but after delivery ($9.90), service charges and taxes the total came to around $93.

How easy was the transaction? Fast. Only name and address were required. This time, I paid by credit card, which required an additional step.

How long was delivery? Having the order confirmed at around 6.45pm, we waited. The time of the promised delivery came and went (60 minutes). As we all started to get a little edgy, there came the knock.

What did the delivery guy say? Though late, he was courteous and professional. Swiftly took out our orders and passed them through the door.

How did the food arrive? Each dish was packed in an individual plastic container. Everything was at the very least lukewarm, some items being hotter then others. While they were a wee bit late we understood that it was due to the dinner rush.

Verdict
All in all, the deliveries did what they were supposed to do: feed someone without an individual leaving the comfort of his own home, but is the food restaurant quality? Definitely not, though you do pay a similar price. That said, we shouldn’t expect fresh off the grill steaks or crispy fries– after all the food did come from a few kilometres away. It is a far, far better alternative than cooking or braving the blazing sun when you just don’t feel like it.

THE FLYING FOOD HEROS

We interview a few delivery riders to get a clearer idea of what goes on in the life of these individuals who brave the elements and traffic of our busy streets to fill our bellies.

Name: Faizal Bin Abu Kassim
Age: 35 Vehicle: Motorcycle
Time on the job: 2 years and 6 months
Delivers for: Room Service

Tell us about your job. I like that I get to meet new and interesting people and the job is relatively stress-free. I really do not like having to deliver food during bad weather conditions though.
Most memorable place you delivered to? The first time I made a delivery to Ocean Drive in Sentosa Cove, I was awestruck upon arriving at the main door. I could see boats docked at the back of the house with a clear view of the ocean. Wow!
Weirdest request from a customer? There was a customer waiting for a change of 3 cents. He was staying in a landed property in a wealthy estate and wanted his 3 cents back. Really?
Where are the most dangerous roads? Adam Road has many cross junctions. The traffic is hazardous and if one is not careful, there is a high risk of a casualty.
Hardest place you have to navigate? Old HDB estates, because as they go through upgrading processes, many of the unit entrances have obstacles–no lifts, no signboards, etc. Almost like playing Cluedo.
Any special gadgets that you carry with you? Many people tend to look towards modern gadgets for help. I still like to do things old school with my printed Mini Directory Book.
When are you the busiest? Delivering in one hour is not a problem, however, if restaurants are late in preparing the food, it affects my delivery time and I have 15 minutes to get from the restaurant to the customer’s home. Otherwise we deliver rain or shine. The busiest nights are usually Sundays as most of the orders are coming from families at home. The peak would be between 6-9pm.

Name: Lee Jun Hao
Age: 24 Vehicle: Electric bicycle
Time on the job: 8 months
Delivers for: Extra Virgin Pizza

What is it like delivering pizzas? My job is unique because everybody in Extra Virgin Pizza actually doubles up as a delivery rider during nonpeak periods. We try to minimise our impact on the environment, so we use electric bicycles instead of delivery vans or motorcycles. That means everyone needs to chip in to cycle a little now and then! It’s challenging at times, as there are a lot of things you can’t control–the weather, traffic and Singapore drivers.
Any place you tend to get lost? Around United Square (where I am stationed), Balestier is definitely one of the more challenging areas. It’s such a complicated place, but after you get familiar with the winding roads, it’s less of a problem–practice makes perfect!
Weirdest person at the door? One time, I delivered some pizzas to this guy who answered the door wrapped in a towel and nothing else. It was all fine till the moment the towel fell to the floor. Thank goodness we are both guys.
Most dangerous delivery you ever did? There isn’t one particular instance that comes to mind, but cycling on Singapore roads in general can be quite dangerous, especially for cyclists. Cars can get really close to us, so we have to be extra careful.
Do you usually get a tip? Tips are not uncommon. Customers are quite happy to have us “keep the change” . The most I’ve ever gotten
is $20 on a single delivery–it was a big delivery with numerous special requests. When we came through for him, he was extremely satisfied and tipped us accordingly.
Last but not least, if I could give advice to anyone starting to do deliveries… It’s tough, but it’s worth it. Always stay positive! There are (hungry) people out there depending on you!

Name: Shaun Low
Age: 28 Vehicle: Motorcycle
Time on the job: 6 months
Delivers for: foodpanda

What do you like/dislike about the job? We get to travel around, interact with different people and not be bound to the desk. However, the job experience is sometimes marred by long waiting hours and unpleasant customers.
Strangest place you ever delivered to? The red light districts like Geylang, because it’s assumed we are there for other purposes besides food delivery.

Weirdest delivery experience? A six-year-old child once placed an order. We hoped it was not a prank and decided to fulfil the order. When we arrived at the address, the kid actually collected the food and made his payment in cash all by himself.
Most dangerous delivery you ever did? Our deliveries are generally safe with rarely any accidents or danger involved as the company takes many safety measures.
Hardest places to find? Usually new places like Marina Bay Financial District are tough to navigate as there are several new roads and we are unfamiliar with the area.

Any special gadgets that you carry with you? Our phones with GPS function and Bluetooth headsets inside our helmets are indispensable for finding your way or calling the customer for more detailed directions while on the go.
How’s the tipping like? My customers would usually round up the total bill to the nearest dollar.

 

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