Skip long queues with GrabFood's Hawker Picks

Under the Hawker Picks programme, dishes from popular hawker stalls are stored in hubs before they are picked up for delivery. The food safety standards are similar to those of caterers, with food kept at a minimum of 70 deg C in industrial warmers.
Under the Hawker Picks programme, dishes from popular hawker stalls are stored in hubs before they are picked up for delivery. The food safety standards are similar to those of caterers, with food kept at a minimum of 70 deg C in industrial warmers. GrabFood has five hubs here, including one in Commonwealth.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Under the Hawker Picks programme, dishes from popular hawker stalls are stored in hubs before they are picked up for delivery. The food safety standards are similar to those of caterers, with food kept at a minimum of 70 deg C in industrial warmers.
Under the Hawker Picks programme, dishes from popular hawker stalls are stored in hubs before they are picked up for delivery. The food safety standards are similar to those of caterers, with food kept at a minimum of 70 deg C in industrial warmers. GrabFood has five hubs here, including one in Commonwealth (above).ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

App users can order pre-made dishes from 70 stalls islandwide

Craving a dish from a popular hawker stall but unwilling to brave the long queue?

A new feature on the Grab app circumvents that by letting GrabFood users choose dishes for delivery from a selection of hawker stalls as famous for their lines as their food, such as Arcade Fish Soup in the Central Business District and A Noodle Story in Amoy Street Food Centre.

The food is pre-made, based on estimated demand and held in a storage facility before delivery, which costs $3 to $5 on top of the price of the dish.

There are about 70 stalls on board Grab's Hawker Picks programme, which has been expanded progressively since January to GrabFood users, served by five hubs - in Commonwealth, River Valley, Serangoon, Bedok and Sembawang.

The amount of food that GrabFood pre-orders from each hawker is calculated based on historical data, GrabFood said.

Because a selection of famous hawker stalls is available at each hub, customers have the added perk of ordering from different hawkers across the island at one go.

GrabFood Singapore head Dilip Roussenaly said the firm follows food safety guidelines similar to those of caterers to ensure that food quality is not compromised, even if consumers receive the meal hours after it is prepared.

Calling the service an "industry first", he said that GrabFood is in discussions with the Singapore Food Agency regarding food safety requirements and has obtained international food safety management certification.

All Hawker Picks food items are time-stamped when drivers collect them from the stalls, just before lunch and dinner operating hours.

They are stored at the facilities in industrial food warmers kept at a minimum of 70 deg C, outside the "danger zone" of 5 to 60 deg C, where bacteria can grow rapidly.

All food must be delivered to consumers within four hours of collection from hawkers.

Meals are typically ordered and delivered within two hours of their arrival at the hub, said Mr Roussenaly.

Unsold food kept longer than four hours must be disposed of, though food waste is rare, he added.

When asked whether dishes will cost the same as what patrons pay at stalls, he said they may differ based on factors such as demand, but he did not say by how much.

While other hawker stalls on GrabFood's platform prepare orders on demand to be delivered by riders, those under the Hawker Picks programme usually have long queues during peak hours and are unable to serve additional online demand, he said.

"Hawkers are used to the way they operate and don't want to change it... but they're interested in tapping the digital space and trying to extend their reach," he said.

"Some players have tried to solve this problem, for example, by using the concierge model where they would send a delivery rider to queue and get the food for consumers, (but this) can take hours."

Also, GrabFood is still exploring the concept of shared kitchens, as announced earlier this year, added Mr Roussenaly.

These are satellite kitchens used by restaurants - or main kitchens for companies that do not have dine-in facilities - to cook food for delivery. Deliveroo operates three shared kitchens, while Foodpanda runs two.

Mr Lee Wei Sheng, owner of the decade-old Arcade Fish Soup, said that the weekday lunch rush can lead to waiting times of up to half an hour.

After six months on Hawker Picks, the stall has seen sales increase by about 10 per cent, said Mr Lee, 34.

"We don't have time to handle online orders during peak hours, so this model works for us," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2019, with the headline 'Skip long queues with GrabFood's Hawker Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe