COVID-19 SPECIAL

$7k a month as a food delivery rider?

While it is possible to earn top dollar, it involves making many trips a day, which may not be sustainable in the long term

A GrabFood delivery partner in the city area earlier this month. With people staying in and more ordering food, it is not difficult for riders to make about 20 trips a day.
A GrabFood delivery partner in the city area earlier this month. With people staying in and more ordering food, it is not difficult for riders to make about 20 trips a day.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

To save up for his wedding in December last year, GrabFood rider Muhammad Alif Mohd Jasmin worked seven days a week the month before.

The 30-year-old says he made around $5,000 that month, clocking 30 trips a day.

But while it is an achievable target, he cautions it is not sustainable in the long run.

"I had a motivation to achieve a target," he says.

Mr Alif, who has been doing deliveries for GrabFood since late 2018, usually covers the town area and does 25 trips a day on his motorcycle.

He targets to hit at least 15 orders from 8am to 2pm.

"Whatever I achieve after that is a bonus," he adds.

With people staying home and more ordering food, hitting 20 deliveries a day is not hard these days.

Earlier this week, food delivery platform Deliveroo reported that its top-earning rider raked in $7,095 last month. It explained that this would require the rider to work an average of 11 hours a day and earn an average of $21 an hour - more than the usual average of $17 an hour.

Delivery partners whom The Sunday Times spoke to agree with Mr Alif that while it is possible to earn top dollar, the trade-off is one's health and well-being, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Sandy Lee, 32, who has been working for Foodpanda for two years, clocked about 27 trips a day during the year-end festive period.

There is a price to pay... You will be very tired the next day and you could put your life in danger if you are rushing around too much.

MS SANDY LEE, a Foodpanda rider who clocked about 27 trips in a day during the year-end festive period

"There is a price to pay," she says. "I couldn't feel my feet. You will be very tired the next day and you could put your life in danger if you are rushing around too much."

On average, she does about 22 trips on her e-bicycle in a nine-hour day, earning about $6.50 an order.

A Foodpanda spokesman says riders earn an average of $7.50 a delivery. With a surge in riders joining them during the pandemic, the company now has more than 8,000 riders.

Grab's spokesman says it has recorded an 80 per cent increase in weekly applications to be a Grab delivery partner since last month.

It launched islandwide delivery services earlier this month, which enable customers to order from almost 800 food and beverage establishments on GrabFood instead of just those in their vicinity.

Deliveroo added more than 1,000 riders to its fleet this month. It now has more than 7,000 riders and expects to hire another 2,000 by the end of June.

The platform has also seen 700 new restaurant sign-ups since January, with another 200 coming on board in the next two weeks.

There has been recent controversy over whether food delivery platforms take "too much" commission from food orders. Many food outlets have also switched to doing their own deliveries or using third-party logistics providers.

Delivery company Lalamove is now making more food delivery trips, says managing director Alex Lin, 34. These now make up 18 per cent of all its trips, compared with 8 per cent before Covid-19.

But food delivery is still consid-ered a small portion of his business, he notes, as his company focuses more on logistics for healthcare and e-commerce. He has also seen an uptick in grocery deliveries.

 
 
 
 

Lalamove has about 8,000 active drivers, from a total pool of 30,000. Instead of charging a commission on the order, the company takes only "slightly above 10 per cent" from the delivery fee, which varies based on distance.

It also allows users the option of adding a driver to their "favourite" list to continue to engage him for future deliveries.

This has helped Lalamove driver George Li, 37, maintain a regular customer base. He works 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, and earns up to $2,000 a week.

It is about "working smart", he says, emphasising that good after-sales service is vital to retaining his regulars.

Aside from making a living, what keeps the riders going in these trying times is more gratitude from customers in the form of tips.

According to Grab, there was a 40 per cent increase in the practice of tipping last month, compared with the previous month.

Mr Aaron Chuah, 39, a part-time delivery rider with Deliveroo, says it is heartening when customers show appreciation.

"A customer left a note outside the door with the words 'Stay safe' and a $5 note. A gesture like this means a lot to us."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 26, 2020, with the headline '$7k a month as a food delivery rider?'. Subscribe