Grocers, food delivery services ramp up to cope with demand after S'pore tightens Covid-19 curbs

Online grocery stores like RedMart have increased capacity and the number of slots released daily for deliveries. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Supermarkets and online grocers as well as food delivery services are opening up more slots and ramping up manpower, as online orders surged in the wake of tightened restrictions that kicked in a week ago on May 16.

While they say it has become more manageable since the initial spike, they are still seeing more orders than before the phase two measures began.

A spokesman for FairPrice supermarket chain said: "Following the spike in shoppers observed at our physical stores on May 14 due to the announcement of phase two (heightened alert), demand from shoppers has since subsided, though we expect order volumes to remain elevated."

Online grocery store RedMart, FairPrice and Dairy Farm Group, which operates supermarket chains Giant and Cold Storage, said they have increased capacity and the number of slots released daily for deliveries.

A Dairy Farm spokesman said: "In preparation for the increase in customer demand, we have hired more manpower to ramp up our packing and delivery capacity and added more daily delivery slots.

"Our teams continue to work around the clock to keep our websites stable and fulfil all pending orders."

A spokesman for RedMart said: "The announcement of phase two (heightened alert) led to an initial peak demand with orders more than three times that of a normal day on RedMart, with a rush for delivery slots and familiar products being snapped up."

The companies urged customers to be patient instead of panic buying, as they have sufficient stocks, with more coming in regularly.

RedMart for instance, urged customers to shop responsibly and check back daily for replenished products.

Dairy Farm has also partnered with Deliveroo for a grocery delivery service spanning 25 Cold Storage outlets and 30 Giant stores, allowing their customers to make purchases on the same day.

"These services provide our customers with more options and flexibility, especially during this period," said Dairy Farm.

Meanwhile, food delivery platforms Deliveroo, Foodpanda and GrabFood say they have all seen an increase in deliveries in the past week. None disclosed any figures.

Foodpanda said: "Orders for food as well as for groceries and other home essentials from Pandamart and Foodpanda shops have increased by almost half since we entered this phase."

However, in some cases, the increased orders have not resulted in more work for delivery drivers and riders.

Foodpanda rider Sandy Lee, 33, said her workload has decreased despite the rise in number of orders across the platform, due to factors such as a larger pool of riders since the tightened measures began, and comparatively less demand for orders in the area where she works.

"Right before the tightened measures, there was a spike in demand, perhaps due to Hari Raya celebrations, but in the last week orders have decreased for me," said Ms Lee, who has been a delivery rider for three years.

Grab driver Jarrold Tham, 40, who also does freelance delivery of food items and packages, said the circuit breaker from April to June last year "was much better for deliveries and it was really busy, probably because it was the first time Singapore was going through something like that".

"But now with the semi-lockdown and few people out, drivers are desperate for jobs," said Mr Tham, who at his peak last year was averaging deliveries worth $70 to $100 per day.

Now he said he can barely make a $100 a week from deliveries.

Beyond the dip in jobs, Mr Tham is also worried about the safety of his family.

"Honestly now I'm scared to drive also with the presence of the new Covid-19 variant and the number of cases going up every day... it's a big fear as I'm planning for a family, and I don't want my wife to get it," he added.

Additional reporting by Joyanne Li

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