Food delivery services have been gaining popularity in Singapore over the past few years, with busy customers willing to pay for convenience and restaurants seeking ways to boost their revenue without having to splurge on physical dining space.
Incumbent platform foodpanda, launched in March 2012, has seen its market dominance challenged by new rivals such as Deliveroo and hawker.today.
Foodpanda's managing director Emma Heap said one of its biggest strengths is its variety of partner eateries. "We have boutique eateries like the organic restaurant Real Food, big chain brands like Sakae Sushi and Burger King, and we also deliver local food like nasi lemak, laksa and chicken rice," she said.
While Ms Heap declined to reveal delivery numbers, she said that last year saw 400 per cent growth in revenue over the year before.
She welcomes other entrants to the food delivery market. "Competition is a very good thing, as we have more players helping to educate customers that you can order food online or through a mobile app. The more people spending in that market, the better," she said.
Hoping for a bite of the food delivery pie is Deliveroo, which began life as a London-based start-up in 2013. It now has operations in 12 countries, and entered the Singapore market in November last year.
Deliveroo's general manager Tristan Torres said: "I think that Singapore makes a perfect market for any food delivery business - it has high population density, wealth and a lot of good restaurants."
With that perfect storm of factors, Deliveroo has seen astronomical growth. Over the last four months, its fleet has grown from five delivery riders to 550, and there are now more than 600 restaurants listed on the platform.
Its delivery service covers 15 of Singapore's 28 postal districts, but will go islandwide by end-April.
Hot on their heels is hawker.today, a local start-up with a focus on food not traditionally seen online - hawker fare.
Founder Jonathan Faynop, 26, said: "Previously you could only have pizza, fast food or expensive restaurant food that you eat maybe once a month delivered to you. But we grew up eating chicken rice, char kuay teow, hokkien mee, and can eat them almost every day, so why not have a delivery service for these types of food?"
The company is expanding aggressively, and aims to increase the number of hawker stalls to 200 by the end of next month.
In order to compete in an increasingly crowded market, all three services are constantly looking for ways to give themselves an edge.
Mr Ajay Sunder, vice-president for digital transformation at research firm Frost & Sullivan, said: "These few apps have already cornered the type of food that can be delivered, so they need to provide a more differentiated value offering for the consumer."
Mr Torres said: "We can always find a lot of inefficiencies in the process, and we are always looking to reduce that.
"Now, we deliver in 30 minutes. Maybe next time it'll be 10, and in five years' time, who knows? Maybe we'll see drones flying from the CBD to River Valley."
Easy to order, but foodpanda has billing issues
Platform: Web, iOS and Android apps
Delivery fee: Varies from $4 to $15, depending on the restaurant
Payment options: Cash on delivery (all restaurants), credit card and PayPal (selected restaurants)
Average delivery time: 30 minutes
Food outlets: More than 700 restaurants
ORDER 1: Grilled chicken thigh ($0), smoked duck arancini balls ($7), churros ($7) and Mexican cola ($4.50) from Fix Cafe.
Total after $4 delivery fee and GST: $24.08
ORDER 2: Honeyed pork ribs ($12), fried sotong fritters ($8), white rice ($1.50) and fresh watermelon juice ($4.50) from Oasis Taiwan Porridge.
Total after $4 delivery fee and GST: $32.10
Foodpanda had the widest variety of restaurants, with more than 40 eateries available both times when I ordered food during lunch to my office.
However, I ran into billing issues both times. The first time, my grilled chicken thigh was not billed (it showed up as $0) online or upon delivery and, the second time, my watermelon juice showed up in the app as $0, but I was charged the correct amount when it was delivered.
Placing orders was easy. I placed my first order on the Web platform, which was straightforward, but I could not track my order progress. The Android app, which I used for my second order, was better. A countdown started after I placed an order and I could track when the order status changed.
Both times, I received three SMS updates: when my order was received, when the restaurant confirmed it and when my food had been picked up.
My orders took 44 minutes and 32 minutes to arrive respectively. The food from Fix Cafe arrived in boxes that were sealed tight. The food was reasonably warm and the cola was still cold.
The food from Oasis Taiwan Porridge arrived in well-sealed boxes with the watermelon juice tied in a separate plastic bag. There was a hole cut in the fried sotong fritters box to keep the food crisp.
Delivery fees for hawker fare hard to stomach
Platforms: iOS and Android apps
Delivery fees: $4.50 (for first 12.8km), with additional distance fees
Payment options: Credit card
Average delivery time: 30 minutes and above, depending on distance
Food outlets: Currently 84 hawker stalls; to expand to 200 by end ofnext month
ORDER: Four cold beancurd with less sugar ($6.80), three salted buns ($3.60), two butterfly buns ($2.40) and dough fritters ($1.20) from Rochor Original Beancurd.
Total after $4.50 delivery fee, $5 distance fee and $1 service fee: $24.50
Hawker.today promises more than 80 hawker stalls but, depending on your location, you may see fewer stalls. When I ordered from Bukit Batok, I was able to order from the nearby Fei Siong Seafood, as well as places farther away like Hock Prawn Mee in Jalan Besar and Rochor Original Beancurd in Selegie Road.
The app accepts only credit card payment. The first time I tried out the app on my Android phone, the app crashed at the very last stage of finalising my order when I had to select my credit card. It kept crashing even after I switched to another card. The app, however, worked fine on my iOS device. It could be due to the latest Android update I received on my Nexus 6P that day, which may have caused incompatibility.
My order was sent through at 7pm and the estimated time of delivery was 70 minutes. The tracking status changed to "On the way" at 7.07pm, and I was able to follow my delivery rider's progress on a map. My food arrived at 7.45pm - 25 minutes ahead of schedule. The beancurd was still cold and the fried buns and fritters were toasty warm and not soggy.
Due to the distance, I had to pay an additional distance fee of $5. I will make do with hawkers nearby even if I have cravings for hawker fare across the island as the cost is too high for me. That may change if the delivery fee goes down or, in the best case, if hawker.today's goal of removing such fees altogether some day comes to fruition.
Speedy service if you're a hop, skip and jump away
Platform: Web and iOS app
Delivery fee: $3 flat fee
Payment options: Credit card and PayPal
Average delivery time: 32 minutes
Food outlets: More than 600 restaurants
ORDER 1: Smoked duck arancini balls ($7.49), grilled chicken thigh ($13.91), churros ($7.49) and Mexican cola ($4.82) from Fix Cafe. Total after $3 delivery fee: $36.71
ORDER 2: Sliced chicken with spices ($10.70), steamed three egg custard ($10.70), rice ($1.61) and cold soya bean ($3.21) from Oasis Taiwan Porridge. Total after $3 delivery fee: $29.22
Deliveroo's speed and service are commendable.
Ordering through the iOS app or the Deliveroo website is fuss-free and easy. Just key in your postal code, select the restaurant and add food to your basket before checking out.
Prices may appear confusing as Deliveroo includes GST directly within the food item.
My first order with Fix Cafe left me with a good impression. The food was warm, packaged in a Deliveroo paper bag with no leakage, and arrived within 35 minutes.
The second order I made, from Oasis Taiwan Porridge, was a messier affair. Gone was the Deliveroo paper bag, replaced instead by a standard plastic bag.
My cold soya bean was packed in the same bag as my hot food items. Not only did some of it spill during the delivery, causing a slight soggy mess, but it had also turned into warm soya bean by the time it got to me after absorbing heat from the packages of hot food right beside it.
This is perhaps no fault of Deliveroo's, as the restaurant did the packing.
Deliveroo's main drawback is its dependence on your location - if you live outside an area it delivers to, the service may as well not exist. Even in a rather central area like Toa Payoh, where SPH News Centre is located, the pickings were slim, with only slightly more than 10 restaurants or cafes.