Coronavirus: From delivery crew to chefs, zi char stall owner plays it safe

Mr Kelvin Foo, the owner of Hai Yan BBQ Seafood, managing delivery orders on Friday. The stall, at Newton Food Centre, uses four tables to split up the deliveries bound for different locations. This way, delivery personnel are kept at least 1m apart
Mr Kelvin Foo, the owner of Hai Yan BBQ Seafood, managing delivery orders on Friday. The stall, at Newton Food Centre, uses four tables to split up the deliveries bound for different locations. This way, delivery personnel are kept at least 1m apart even when they pick up the orders.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

At hawker stall Hai Yan BBQ Seafood, delivery crew wait patiently several metres from the stall for their orders to be ready.

Orders are packaged and placed at different tables in front of the stall, depending on the area of Singapore they are destined for.

The zi char stall, located at Newton Food Centre, receives about 16 delivery orders each day.

The stall uses four tables to split up the deliveries bound for different locations. This way, delivery personnel are also kept at least 1m apart even when they pick up the orders.

Owned by 37-year-old Kelvin Foo, the stall has only recently started to offer a delivery service, since dining at the food centre is no longer allowed because of measures implemented during the circuit breaker period.

His wife - Ms Esther Yew, 31, who usually stays home to care for the couple's two young children - is now helping to organise the delivery service.

Rather than use popular platforms such as Deliveroo and GrabFood, Ms Yew takes orders via WhatsApp and works with a private courier service to deliver orders to customers.

She said: "We were hesitant at first because delivery was not something we had done before. But offering it is really a must now, otherwise we would have almost no business."

But using one of the major platforms, which charge a commission of about 25 to 32 per cent a transaction, would eat too much into the stall's profit margin.

 
 
 

Ms Yew said that since the stall started offering its delivery service, business is back to about 50 per cent of what it was before the Covid-19 outbreak.

"It is not great but at least we are surviving and making a bit of income for ourselves," she said.

The stall has three delivery slots: 5pm to 7pm; 7pm to 9pm; and 9pm to 11pm. Delivery charges range from $6 to $10, depending on location.

Safety and hygiene are also a top priority at the stall.

Mr Foo organises and packs the orders while two chefs prepare the food. All three wear masks at all times and wash and sanitise their hands regularly.

Ms Yew takes charge of all delivery orders from home and communicates with her husband via mobile phone.

Mr Foo stays out of the cooking area and minimises contact with the chefs.

They also take breaks separately and eat their meals alone.

 
 

The stall provides hand sanitiser for delivery personnel and Mr Foo makes sure the delivery crew are wearing masks at all times.

Ms Yew said: "They also don't really talk to one another at the stall so that interaction is minimised. We're taking all the precautions that we can to keep everyone safe."

Correction note: An earlier version of this story misspelt Ms Esther Yew's name. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 26, 2020, with the headline 'From delivery crew to chefs, zi char stall owner plays it safe'. Subscribe