Coronavirus pandemic

More eateries in Singapore joining delivery platforms ahead of dine-in ban

Some are grappling with high commission fees; Enterprise S'pore to offer help

Diners observing social distancing at Serangoon Garden food centre. While takeaways will still be allowed when the ban on eating out kicks in on Tuesday, operators worry that business will slow to unsustainable levels as workplaces close and Singapor
Diners observing social distancing at Serangoon Garden food centre. While takeaways will still be allowed when the ban on eating out kicks in on Tuesday, operators worry that business will slow to unsustainable levels as workplaces close and Singaporeans are encouraged to stay home.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Samy's Curry director Nagajyothi Mahendran said it is seeking to partner the major food delivery services to help it survive the coming month.
Samy's Curry director Nagajyothi Mahendran said it is seeking to partner the major food delivery services to help it survive the coming month.ZB FILE PHOTO

Diners opting to order in will have more options to choose from in the coming weeks, as more eateries sign up with food delivery services amid a looming ban on eating out.

Some restaurants and hawkers, however, are grappling with high commission fees charged by such services and an expected drop in revenue over the coming month, when dining in will not be allowed at all food and beverage establishments.

This restriction was part of the stricter measures announced on Friday to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

While takeaways will still be allowed when the new rules kick in on Tuesday, operators worry that business will slow to unsustainable levels as workplaces close and Singaporeans are encouraged to stay home.

The announcement on Friday came as a shock, said Samy's Curry director Nagajyothi Mahendran.

Like many others, the Dempsey restaurant has had to halve its capacity in recent weeks to comply with safe-distancing measures, and takings have fallen by up to 40 per cent, she said.

While Samy's Curry stopped deliveries last year after being unable to cope with the additional manpower demands, it is now seeking to partner the three major players - Deliveroo, GrabFood and foodpanda - to help it survive the coming month.

Food delivery services told The Sunday Times that there has been a surge in new restaurants joining their platforms in recent weeks, and they are rolling out measures to help businesses amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Orders have jumped by about 20 per cent over the last two months, they said, and delivery fleets are being expanded to meet any further increase in demand this week.

Deliveroo said more than 600 new restaurants have joined its platform since late January, with a 50 per cent jump in sign-ups last month compared with the month before.

Starting later this month, payouts to eateries for orders made through Deliveroo will be made twice a week, rather than fortnightly, to help cash-strapped restaurants during the current coronavirus crisis, a spokesman said.

GrabFood said it has signed up hundreds of F&B businesses to its food and goods delivery platforms over the past month.

To help small local businesses, GrabFood has created a "Local Heroes" icon on its homepage to increase the visibility of highly rated single-outlet businesses.

UNCERTAIN TIMES

If it's just one month I think we can manage, but if it continues I don't know.

It's very worrying.

SAMY'S CURRY DIRECTOR NAGAJYOTHI MAHENDRAN >600 New restaurants that joined food delivery service Deliveroo's platform since late January.

Foodpanda Singapore's managing director Luc Andreani said it has sped up the onboarding process for businesses, and related fees are offset against food orders instead of being required as upfront payment.

But some hawkers and restaurants said they are hesitant to sign up with delivery providers, as the 20 per cent to 40 per cent commission charged per order can erase already-thin profits.

To help F&B businesses lower costs for their takeaway and delivery operations during the dine-in ban, Enterprise Singapore announced yesterday that it will fund 5 percentage points of the commissions charged by Deliveroo, GrabFood and foodpanda, with no cap on the food delivery transaction value.

Ms Nagajyothi said the help is appreciated, as restaurants will have to rely heavily on deliveries for the coming month at least.

"If it's just one month I think we can manage, but if it continues I don't know. It's very worrying," she said.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore said that not all restaurants are conceptualised for takeaway and delivery, and the latest measures are likely to lead to both temporary and permanent closures.

"Some restaurant owners are of the opinion that takeaway and delivered meals cannot be justified as the sole means of revenue for them in a profitable business model," a spokesman said.

Mr William Wong, who runs a Hainanese curry rice stall at Ghim Moh Market, said the commissions charged by food delivery services are too high for a small outfit like his to be profitable.

Business has fallen by about 30 per cent in recent weeks, he said, and like many hawkers, he is bracing himself for a further slowdown.

"There are offices nearby, but once the non-essential workplaces close, I don't know how much we will be affected," said Mr Wong, 63.

  • >600

    New restaurants that joined food delivery service Deliveroo's platform since late January.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong wrote in a blog post yesterday that hawkers have been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, and urged them to adopt digital tools such as food delivery and e-payment options.

He also called on food delivery platforms to lower their commission fees given the increasing reliance on them, "especially during such unprecedented times".

In an open letter by a coalition of 500 restaurants called #savefnbsg to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, businesses said "the next 30 days will be do-or-die for many of us", and appealed for immediate help.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 05, 2020, with the headline 'More eateries joining delivery platforms ahead of dine-in ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe