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SINGAPOREANS have been getting their fast food delivered since '6235-35-35' became the most oft-dialled hotline thanks to its catchy TV jingle. But in recent years, as technology enabled the proliferation of online on-demand services - from holidays to shopping, transport and even laundry - more companies have jumped on board to serve up our favourite pastime on a plate.
While the most prominent ones you might know are international brands such as foodpanda and Deliveroo, they currently focus mostly on restaurants and cafes. There are also a few other smaller local outfits such as Hawker.Today and HungrySia (still in the beta-testing stage) which instead prefer to shine a spotlight on more affordable local food.
The most recent entrant is UberEATS - run by the multinational online transportation network company Uber. It just launched on Wednesday with over 100 eateries, although its delivery is currently limited to the CBD, Tanjong Pagar, Orchard, and River Valley.
Singapore is the 15th country where Uber is launching this service, and Avram Rampersaud, head of UberEATS SG, says the increasing demand comes from the growing availability of options in the industry here. He explains: "A year ago, if you're tired from work or don't feel like going out, you wouldn't be able to have a meal from your favourite nearby restaurant. But fast-forward a year later, and all of a sudden you can get your food delivered straight to you no matter what, and in a convenient and affordable way. Plus, restaurants now have economic opportunity outside their outlet's limited seating area - it's a great product market fit."
Four-year-old foodpanda attributes this growth to a slightly different reason - the improvement of existing services. It started as a platform where restaurants listed their options and fulfilled their own orders, but last year it launched its own fleet of riders - a number which now stands at over 1,000 - in order to better control the customer experience.
Managing director of foodpanda Singapore Emma Heap says that while she can't reveal the average number of orders, foodpanda has had a consolidated monthly growth rate of 20 per cent this year, and returning customers place orders on an average of twice a week.
"When we cut delivery time from 60 to 90 minutes in 2012 to just 30 minutes now, customer habits changed. When you can get your food in 30 minutes, it becomes faster than cooking at home or going out to get takeaway. Customers in 2012 used foodpanda for occasions that are planned in advance. Now, they've shifted to ordering on demand, relying on convenience and choice of restaurants. Frequency has increased quite drastically."
Even more ambitious is six-month-old Deliveroo, which already has 1,200 restaurants, more than 1,100 riders, plus plans to go islandwide by the end of May. General manager of Deliveroo Singapore Tristan Torres says they've recently started investing in central kitchens - named Roobox - with hopes of cutting their half-hour average delivery times by half.
He explains: "Restaurants like PS Cafe for example don't have an outlet in Katong, but they want to be there and people want to order from them. So if I put a central kitchen there, they can cook and deliver from it. The restaurants we've talked to all love it, because opening another outlet in Singapore requires a lot of money - something they don't need if they can use Deliveroo as a vehicle to be in zones they otherwise cannot serve."
It's not just restaurants that are benefiting from the booming delivery industry, even hawker stall-owners are getting a slice of the pie. Local startup Hawker.Today, for example, is a six-month-old service that focuses solely on hawkers. It currently serves over 300 hawker stalls, but founder Jonathan Faynop aims to up this figure to 2,000 by the end of this year.
However, he observes that delivering hawker food has its own set of challenges, like the fact that stall owners are often not as open to spending extra money on deliveries. "If you go to a restaurant for example, and tell them you'll deliver for them, they're very open to discussing the best packaging to protect the quality of the food. But hawker stall owners don't think like that. To them it's just tapao using the usual cheap styrofoam boxes, that's why people don't believe hawker food can be delivered. It's a perception we are working to change," he says.
Ultimately, although the number of food delivery companies in the market (and their coverage) is increasing, it seems that saturation is still not yet in sight. As foodpanda's Ms Heap explains it: "Everyone needs to eat, and most people eat three meals a day. In theory, that's potentially 90 orders a month. Singapore's population is over five million, so we believe the demand can be upwards of 200,000 a day. Even between all of us (delivery companies), we're still a long way from that."
By Rachel Loi
Additional reporting by Tan Teck Heng
THE Uber brand has been in Singapore since 2013, and despite the occasional online uproar over surge pricing, it has gathered a significant following from both drivers and riders alike. But with a good reputation comes high pressure, as the same standards will probably be expected from UberEATS - a food delivery service it just launched on Wednesday.
So far, the app serves only over 100 restaurants, and is limited to only a few central zones, but it plans to eventually go islandwide. It's a little inconvenient that it doesn't allow for advance orders, and deliveries are limited by proximity, but at least the app's interface looks about as sleek as the original Uber, and it allows you to track your rider in real-time.
When it comes to the actual delivery, our rider was slightly late and tacos from Baja Fresh were less fresh than we would've liked. But it's just their first week so there's no reason to think they won't be able to improve.
By Rachel Loi
FOR a company that's only been around for about six months, Deliveroo boasts some impressive stats. Over 1,200 restaurants, more than 1,100 riders, and it's going islandwide by the end of May.
Plus, the app itself is straightforward to use, and comes with a tracking system so you can watch your rider (marked by a kangaroo icon) making his way towards your location. Delivery also costs a flat S$3, and there's a minimum order of S$25 if you want to avoid a S$5 surcharge. It won't be too hard to meet that minimum, however, considering the majority of the existing food options are restaurants as opposed to fast-food or hawker stalls.
Our order from the nearby Fix Cafe arrived earlier than the estimated time, with the nachos and quesadillas still in good condition. The fish enchiladas, however, were a soppy-looking (but at least still tasty) mess, and the amount of guacamole was rather stingy. Though the latter might be the fault of the restaurant, having our lunch delivered meant giving up the ability to highlight this directly to the service staff.
By Rachel Loi
FOODPANDA started building its own fleet of riders last year (up to over 1,000 now), but it looks like it still needs to do a bit more recruiting. A lunchtime rush could risk the app shutting down certain overwhelmed zones, and refusing to take on anything other than pre-orders. Maybe it's a better way of managing expectations than to show up late, but in some unfortunate cases, it could mean your 12pm lunch order arrives at 1.45pm (granted, still earlier than the estimate of 2pm).
Thankfully, the saving grace is that our baked rice from Kaye Peri Peri Grille Pasta (10 minutes away) is still piping hot, although the same could not be said of our onion rings which turned soggy in their brown paper bag. Also, since the app lacks a tracking function, customers will just have to check the order status for updates, or wait till the deliveryman calls.
By Rachel Loi
HOMEGROWN delivery app Hawker.Today prides itself on being the largest e-hawker centre in Singapore - at least that's what it's working towards. It's fairly new for an independent startup (official launch was in November 2015) so it still needs to build up its stable of options. Even though there are officially over 300 stalls, many have erratic operating hours, often displaying an "offline" status even at conventional lunch or dinner hours.
One of the plus points about its service is that Hawker.Today offers the option of topping up an additional distance fee for orders exceeding a certain delivery radius - so at least this gives customers more options. The app itself is still rather buggy - it crashes on occasion and sometimes the order status doesn't update in real time.
At least our noodles from Jia Le Roasted Meats arrived warm, intact, and fast (around half an hour at lunchtime), plus the deliveryman's name, photo, and phone number were provided in case of last-minute requests. And while we respect Hawker.Today's ambition to be islandwide in a few months and serve 2,000 stalls by the end of this year, perhaps it might be best that they iron out the basic kinks first.
Available from 6pm to 1am
THIS new site is still in beta phase, so don't expect much unless you're ordering a simple dinner or supper from their test zone in the west. Of the four eateries available, Al-Azhar and Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak stand out as popular and affordable choices.
Ordering is a little clunky at the moment: you submit a request online, which will be confirmed via SMS within 15 minutes. They will call to warn you if deliveries take longer than 60 minutes. Our food arrives a little later than expected, and it's a drive-by system: a couple of honks brought us over to a sheepish driver who handed over the warm packets.
Despite its limitations, HungrySia may already prove useful to tertiary students and national servicemen who need bulk orders - it specifically lists locations such as schools, universities and army camps in the west. Delivery charges are reasonable at S$3.50 for distances under five kilometres, with a minimum order of two packets.
By Tan Teck Heng
GOURMET to Go is a decade-old, islandwide delivery service that still relies on a landline for orders, but fans of Indian cuisine will find its listings compelling. Its catalogue of around 50 restaurants includes many Indian eateries such as Zaffron Kitchen and Indline, with a scattering of Japanese, Western and local restaurants such as Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant.
Ordering by phone took a while; apparently, the customer service officer's computer crashed. But our bounty from The Orange Lantern arrives within the hour - faster than the promised 60 to 90 minutes - with Vietnamese spring rolls still crispy, noodles warm, and sauces intact. The downside: there's a minimum order of S$25 per restaurant, with finicky charges such as a S$5 levy for deliveries below S$40, plus an additional 10 per cent on orders. That's on top of the delivery fee which ranges between S$4 and S$14.
By Tan Teck Heng