One of human resource administrator Rachael Loh's jobs is to feed almost 30 traders twice a day. As office manager at principal trading firm DRW, she has to plan breakfasts and lunches up to two weeks in advance.
Ms Loh, 31, has been using food delivery service FeastBump since August last year, even on public holidays such as Chinese New Year, when the traders work. She has tried other delivery services, but has had bad experiences, such as having to wait more than two hours for food.
She says: "Traders are stuck at their desks all day and do not go out for meals. Food can't come late either. If they get angry while waiting, that could affect my job. So delivery works best for me as I can't be going out to buy food for 30 people every day."
People like her are fuelling the growth of food delivery services. There are at least 10 firms that deliver everything from Korean fried chicken to bento meals to ice cream.
These firms include Deliveroo, foodpanda and What To Eat. Newer players that have entered the scene in the past six months include UberEATS, DishDash and Hawker To Go - sister company of Gourmet To Go, which delivers from restaurants. Other delivery services for hawker fare include hawker.today and Hawker Sia.
The Sunday Times did a road test of eight food delivery firms on June 9 during lunch time.
The quality of the service varied. What To Eat and foodpanda came out tops because of the wide choices, ease of ordering and prompt delivery. Though Deliveroo's ordering process was easy, the delivery was 30 minutes late and one item was missing from the order.
Gourmet To Go and Hawker To Go require calling in to order food, which might not work for time- strapped diners.
Seven-year-old Afiko food delivery service was not included in the road test as it requires customers to order at least a day in advance and Hawker Sia delivers only to the western part of Singapore. DishDash delivers only within the Central Business District.
There may be plenty of buzz over food deliveries, but the trend is not new. In 1998, food delivery service Dining In delivered food from more than 50 restaurants.
More of such services entered the scene in the 2000s, including Cuisine Xpress, Dabao.sg and The Tiffin Club. Restaurants started offering their own delivery services too.
These set-ups have come and gone, but owners of the new crop of food delivery firms believe the trend is here to stay as convenience has become key for Singaporeans.
Ms Emma Heap, managing director of foodpanda, launched in 2012, says this is in line with the growth of online businesses. "We have seen lots of traditional industries move into the digital domain, such as groceries, laundry and taxis. Foodpanda is a response to the millennial consumer who wants to access food using smartphones or the Internet."
Mr Benson Lo, 38, managing director of What To Eat, launched in 2013, says: "Food delivery appeals to harried professionals. Demand is soaring due to growing affluence, coupled with Singaporeans getting increasingly busy and not having time to cook, but wanting to eat at home."
What To Eat used to partner foodpanda, but they went their separate ways in December because of "differences over how the company should expand", he says.
Companies are now able to track interesting consumer habits.
Deliveroo Singapore's general manager, Mr Tristan Torres, 36, says: "On Mondays and Tuesdays, people tend to order healthy food because they eat a lot over the weekend. As the week progresses, they are more likely to have 'cheat meals' as they feel they deserve it after a long week. On weekends, there is a strong demand for burgers and pizzas for families and groups."
Deliveroo started in London in 2013 and launched here in November. It has branches in Dubai, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney.
It has a partnership with taxi- booking app Grab until August, in which Grab rides earn commuters Deliveroo credits. Mr Torres would not say how long the arrangement will last, adding only that "results have surpassed expectations".
The rise of new competitors has affected older players. Afiko focuses less on same-day deliveries. Its general manager Lloyd Ng, 28, says it handles more pre-orders and provides event delivery services for corporate and private events.
To stay ahead of the game, companies have different strategies. For example, Deliveroo keeps its 1,200 riders working within zones as Mr Torres believes they can make quicker deliveries if they understand an area better.
While most companies allow for ordering via smartphone apps or online, Gourmet To Go and Hawker To Go require diners to call in. The companies' operations manager, Mr Graham Jones, 29, says: "We want to listen to customer demands and get them right. We are emphasising customer service, that's why we have people call in to confirm orders. It may sound troublesome, but that's our personal touch."
Others believe in partnering online platforms. To handle deliveries, FeastBump ties up with transport services Lalamove and CarPal. Some of its partner restaurants also have their own fleet of drivers who do the deliveries.
Food delivery companies could make money from the commission they charge restaurants for each order, which is likely to cover the rider's salary and marketing costs, among other things.
Speed and food quality aside, the companies also have service recovery procedures in place. Should there be issues, compensations, refunds or discounts are offered. If the order is not complete, the missing item will be re-delivered.
On how this works out for partner restaurants, Ms Amanda Phan, 34, director of The Food Explorer Group, which owns Grub in Ang Mo Kio, Fix Cafe in Balestier and redpan at Marina Square, says: "The deliveries make our food available to a wider audience and makes it more convenient for people to try our food. So that does increase the volume of food we serve.
"It widens our reach... without the heavy investment of having our own fleet of delivery vehicles. It makes sense for small independent food and beverage outlets like ours. We can 'co-share' the cost of having a delivery service."
Grub and Fix Cafe are listed on foodpanda and Deliveroo.
What does the future hold for delivery services? What To Eat is looking to expand in Asia and foodpanda plans to deliver food from hawker centres. Deliveroo is working on a project called Roobox, where it will set up central kitchens and get restaurants to use them to prepare meals for deliveries.
Mr Torres says: "This will reduce delivery time by 30 to 40 per cent." He adds that the first kitchen is scheduled to be launched in the third quarter.
With companies upping the ante to stay ahead of the competition, it is diners who benefit from the slew of food offerings that can be delivered right to their doorstep.
Student Anna Ng, 20, orders from What To Eat at least three times a week, as it allows her to order food from restaurants that are not near her home in Eunos. Some of her favourites include El Cubanos in Jalan Kayu, 5 Grill Kitchen in Aljunied and Maki-San in Dhoby Ghaut.
She says: "Because What To Eat does islandwide delivery, the food may take slightly longer to arrive, but it is always on time. What To Eat provides variety - there are so many restaurants I can choose from, not just the ones near my house. When I am too lazy to go out, food delivery is a very good option."
Mr Neel Kaul, 32, a Danish citizen who has been working in Singapore for three years as assistant vice- president for global financial services company Credit Suisse, orders food from Deliveroo up to 10 times a week - to his office and to his home when he hosts guests.
"I used to cook, but I ended up wasting food, which means I waste money. By ordering, I can decide what I want to eat at the last minute, order and it arrives in half an hour or less. I don't have to worry about what to cook and buying groceries."
My bill: OMG Burger ($22.47, right) from Jewel Cafe+Bar in Rangoon Road
Time taken: 30 minutes Delivery charge: Free, $3 currently waived, no minimum order
Although UberEATS delivers mainly to the Central Business District, Orchard Road and River Valley area, Jewel Cafe+Bar in Rangoon Road shows up on the app, when I key in my office address in Toa Payoh North.
Placing the order is fuss-free and I like that there are food pictures on the menu to whet the appetite.
The food comes promptly, in the estimated 30 minutes, and I can track the driver via the app.
The burger comes in a simple plastic container, with the bottom burger bun soggy from the juicy patty. The fries come in a paper bag and while they are still slightly warm, the crispness is gone.
After the delivery is made, I receive an e-receipt of my bill that includes a clear breakdown of the route and time the driver took and the distance he covered. This is certainly a plus point that the online transportation network company can ride on.
However, when I checked the app again last Friday, it showed that no restaurant delivers to Toa Payoh.
Hopefully this gets sorted out soon, with more food options and islandwide delivery.
Gourmet To Go
Number of restaurants listed: 70
Info: Go to www.gourmettogo.com.sg or call 6352-2622; 11am to 2.30pm and 6 to 9.30pm (weekday), 11am to 9.30pm (weekend)
My bill: (Above, clockwise from red bowl) Tofu salad ($11.70), chawanmushi ($9.40), tempura udon ($21.10), survival charge ($4.30), delivery charge ($4), from Nara Japanese Restaurant in Thomson Road
Time taken: One hour
Delivery charge: $4 to $14, depending on the distance from the restaurant; minimum order of $25; $5 surcharge for orders below $40; additional 10 per cent "survival charge"
While I can make my order in under five minutes through an app or by clicking on the website, the two-step ordering system at Gourmet To Go is troublesome.
I choose to order from Nara Japanese Restaurant as it is close to my office in Toa Payoh North. As I click the items I want, there is a "Dining Calculator" that adds up my bill.
However, after scrolling up and down the site, I realise there is no "check-out" button to place my order. Instead, I have to call in to confirm the order. This process takes about five minutes as I have to give the staff the relevant food codes as she takes my order.
The food arrives neatly packaged, with the soup for my udon packed separately to prevent soggy noodles. The salad dressing and dipping sauce for the tempura are also packed in separate containers.
I like that the liquids are covered with extra clingwrap to prevent spills. The disposable chopsticks provided come from the restaurant too, so it feels more professional than normal disposable cutlery.
My issues are not with the food, but with the service. I do not get a receipt with my delivery and because I ordered on the telephone, I do not have a record of the transaction.
There is also an additional 10 per cent "survival charge", which the website says is to cover the cost of delivery operations. I think this is unnecessary, especially since other services do not have such fees.
Even though 47 restaurants deliver to my area, I am not sure it is worth the hassle ordering through this service.
Hawker To Go
Number of hawkers listed: 20
Info: Go to www.hawkertogo.com or call 6291-0508; 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 9.30pm (weekday), 11am to 9.30pm (weekend)
My bill: Half a roast chicken ($12, right), half a steamed chicken ($12, centre), two portions of rice (50 cents each), surcharge ($5), survival charge ($2.50), delivery charge ($10), from Rong Hua Yuan Hainanese Chicken Rice in Bedok South Road
Time taken: One hour
Delivery charge: $4 to $14, depending on distance from hawker; minimum order of $20; $5 surcharge for orders under $40; additional 10 per cent "survival charge"
Like its sister delivery service Gourmet To Go, I have to call in to order from Hawker To Go.
The person who picks up the telephone does not take my order, but asks for my contact number and tells me someone else will call me back. I wait 10 minutes for that call.
The three-month-old service has signed on few hawkers and, for my location in Toa Payoh North, I am able to order only from Rong Hua Yuan Hainanese Chicken Rice.
The patient staff member on the telephone says I should be able to see more options and admits there have been "technical glitches" with the system. Nevertheless, he takes my order for chicken rice.
The warm chicken and rice come packed in the usual styrofoam takeaway boxes, along with packets of sauce.
Like with Gourmet To Go, I have more issues with the system than with the food. I much prefer to do the entire transaction online instead of having to call.
My bill: Roast duck rice ($5.50), char siew rice ($4.90), chicken noodles ($5.90), service fee ($1), delivery fee ($4.50), from Jia Le Hong Kong Roasted Food in Upper Aljunied Road
Time taken: 45 minutes, within the 40 to 100 minutes time frame
Delivery charge: From $4.50, no minimum order for delivery, surcharge of $3 for orders below $12
Two weeks ago, only two hawkers were listed on the app for delivery to Toa Payoh North - Jia Le Hong Kong Roasted Food and Ruby Industrial Cafeteria.
After I place my order for Jia Le, a confirmation page pops up with a three-minute countdown as I wait for the order to be confirmed.
There is no confirmation after three minutes. So I have to click on the countdown button again and wait another three minutes before it is confirmed.
Then, I receive a text message saying it has been confirmed. It gives me the order number and estimated time of arrival.
As I am managing all the orders for this road test, I forget that I have a confirmed order and place another one with Jia Le. I get another confirmation SMS.
Realising my mistake, I send a message via Facebook to hawker. today. I wait 10 minutes for a response, but am told that it is unable to cancel my second order as the driver has picked up both meals.
I am told that in the app, the name of the driver and his mobile number is indicated, a handy service for any last-minute changes.
The deliveryman, Wilson, arrives promptly and when I apologise for making him go to the same place twice to collect food, he says he received my second order before he left the stall.
Shortly after he leaves, I get a text from him wishing me a good meal. It is a nice personal touch, rather than getting a generic automated message.
The food is warm and the noodles not clumpy.
Fans of hawker food will be pleased to know there are more options available.
Hawker centres such as Maxwell and Tiong Bahru food centres are listed as well - click on the centres for the full list of hawkers available.
Number of restaurants listed: 1,200
Info: Order via foodpanda app, go to www.foodpanda.sg or call 6589-8669;9.30am to 10.30pm daily
My bill:Doughnuts with salted egg dip ($6, above left),mushroom enchiladas ($14, right), delivery charge ($3),GST($1.61), from Fix Cafe inAhHoodRoad, off BalestierRoad
Delivery charge: $3,minimum order of $15
Like Deliveroo, I get a pop-up window indicating that the wet weather will affect the delivery time and the food will take up to an hour to reach me.
However, my order is not delayed, coming punctually within the initial estimate of 40minutes. I get to pick from 75 restaurants that deliver to my office in Toa Payoh North, listed according to the length of delivery times.
As I am waiting, I get three text messages to update the status of my order. The first tells me my order has been received, quickly followed by the next message that Fix Cafe is preparing my order. I get a link to track the status of the order via the app.
The last message lets me know my order has been picked up and the rider is on his way. The food is still slightly warm on arrival, although the oil from the doughnuts has turned the paper bag translucent.
The day after the order, I get an e-mail asking me to rate the delivery service and food on a scale of one to five stars. The star ratings are indicated on the restaurant listingon the website.
I also like that the website tracks the eateries I have viewed on the site, which is helpful when there are many restaurants to sift through.
My bill: Egg tarts ($6.20, above left), XO carrot cake ($10.80, right), delivery fee ($8), from Old Hong Kong Kitchen in Square 2 in Sinaran Drive
Time taken: One hour
Delivery charge: Some of the restaurants have no delivery fee or minimum order, but others do, including SK Catering (up to $80 for delivery) and Revada Food & Services (minimum order: $220)
FeastBump does not make deliveries. Instead, restaurants which have signed up with it or services such as Lalamove and CarPal ferry the food to customers.
That is why I like that on its website, delivery fees and minimum order rates are listed clearly. That is important because some places do not charge for delivery and do not have a minimum order; others, especially catering services, may charge a high price.
Unlike many sites which take only same-day orders, on FeastBump, I can order up to two months in advance, which is good for planning events.
Restaurants on FeastBump use Oddle, an online-ordering system, which makes the process hassle- free. This redirects me to the restaurant's shopping carts, so I know that prices are not marked up.
I get an SMS confirmation saying my order will arrive between 1.30 and 2pm. It arrives just after 1.30pm.
The food comes in plastic takeaway containers and is not warm, despite the prompt delivery.
The deliveryman is from Old Hong Kong Kitchen. He hands me my food and leaves. We both forget that I need to pay him. About an hour later, he returns, saying he forgot to collect payment.
Some restaurants on FeastBump allow customers to pick up their food - a good way to avoid delivery charges.
Number of restaurants listed: More than 1,400
Info: Order via Deliveroo app, go to deliveroo.com.sg or call 3163-5199; noon to 11pm daily
My bill: Eight chicken wings ($17.12, right) and Jaeyook Burger ($8.45), delivery fee ($3), from Choo Choo Chicken in Toa Payoh Lorong 4
Time taken: 70 minutes
Delivery charge: $3, with minimum order of $25; $5 surcharge for orders under $25
Only 28 restaurants deliver to my office in Toa Payoh North and there is a clear estimate of how long the orders will take from the individual restaurants.
It is raining when I make the order. A window pops up on the website indicating that weather conditions may delay the delivery.
The ordering process is smooth and painless, but the wait is longer than I expect.
About 20 minutes after my order is confirmed, I get a text message saying that it may be delayed by up to 10 minutes. I end up waiting 70 minutes, half an hour more than the 40 minutes that was initially indicated.
It seems that the late delivery is not due to the wet weather.
I ask the deliveryman - or Roo-men as they are called - about the late delivery and he tells me apologetically that he is from the Aljunied zone, but has been sent to Toa Payoh instead. Deliveroo's delivery strategy keeps riders in specific zones to minimise delivery time.
While my food is no longer hot, it is the most well-packaged among all the delivery companies I try. The food comes in a Deliveroo paper bag with my receipt attached.
The two types of chicken wings - honey soy and spicy - are neatly separated in a sturdy paper box. I also receive the Choo Choo rice that is a side dish for the burger. However, the burger is missing.
Unfortunately, I realise this too late. When I call eight days later to ask, I am told such issues need to be raised within 24 hours for Deliveroo to check with the restaurant.
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