Competition watchdog looking into plea to help level playing field

Mr Warren Tseng, general manager of Smart City Kitchens, says Deliveroo and GrabFood have refused to list restaurants operating out of its kitchen on their platforms. The shared kitchen operator estimates the two companies represent about 60 per cent
Mr Warren Tseng, general manager of Smart City Kitchens, says Deliveroo and GrabFood have refused to list restaurants operating out of its kitchen on their platforms. The shared kitchen operator estimates the two companies represent about 60 per cent of the online food delivery market here.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

A shared kitchen operator has appealed to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) to "help level the playing field" after being shut out by a second food delivery operator just weeks after starting business.

Smart City Kitchens' general manager Warren Tseng said at a press conference yesterday that Deliveroo and GrabFood - which it estimates to represent about 60 per cent of the online food delivery market here - have refused to list restaurants operating out of its Tampines kitchen on their platform.

The 13,000 sq ft facility opened last month and houses 30 individual kitchens that are rented out to food and beverage operators for deliver y operations.

Smart City Kitchens, which touts itself as the first operator here that is not affiliated with a delivery service, offers advisory and facility services, but restaurants must find their own platforms for sale and delivery.

The CCCS said in response to queries that it is "looking into the matter", but unable to provide further details at this stage.

Some eateries operating out of Smart City Kitchens - including Biryani Box and Raj - told The Straits Times last week that food delivery giant Deliveroo had refused to list them on its platform, putting a dent in their expansion plans.

GrabFood has since followed suit, they said yesterday.

 
 
 

Deliveroo operates three shared kitchens of its own. GrabFood said earlier this year that it planned to venture into the space as well.

Foodpanda, which has two shared kitchens in Singapore, has continued to partner with those operating out of Smart City Kitchens.

Grab said in response to queries that it is "finding the most efficient way to adopt the cloud kitchen concept onto our platform, whether with partners or on our own".

Mr Tseng said the moves by Deliveroo and GrabFood "go against the spirit of fair play and healthy competition". "This has severely affected at least seven tenants who had already started operations, and is of deep concern to over 20 others who are due to commence operations over the coming weeks," he said.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh of the NUS Business School said, however, that food delivery services have the prerogative to choose their suppliers.

"If the major food delivery services are ignoring the shared kitchens, other market takers will spring up to fill the gap," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2019, with the headline 'Competition watchdog looking into plea to help level playing field'. Subscribe