Hokkien mee is just a click away

  • Food News
  • Friday, 25 Aug 2017

Fastbee.sg founder Khoo Kar Kiat. It svending machines are located at four office hubs. Photos: The Straits Times

No more sweating in long queues at hawker centres. Singaporeans can now tuck into hawker delights in the comfort of home or office with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Over the past six months, at least four online hawker food delivery start-ups have emerged.

But unlike previous islandwide hawker delivery services such as hawker.today, which closed down, these cater to limited areas or have specific delivery times to keep operation costs low.

They are Yihawker, a hawker food delivery and listing platform; HungrySia, which caters to bulk corporate food orders; WhyQ, which targets hungry office workers in the Central Business District (CBD); and Fastbee.sg, an ordering portal that dispenses food in vending machines.

These start-ups are filling a gap in the food delivery sector that is dominated by fast-food outlets, and companies such as foodpanda, Deliveroo and UberEats, that mainly offer food from restaurants.

They do not require a minimum order and charge lower delivery fees from S$1.50 (RM4.70), unlike foodpanda, which requires a minimum order of S$15 (RM47); or UberEats and Deliveroo, which charge a delivery fee of S$3 to S$3.50 (RM9.40 to RM11).

People eating at the iconic Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, once the Teluk Ayer Market in Singapore.

Most of the hawker dishes cost S$4 to S$7 (RM12.50 to RM22), which include a 10% to 30% cut for delivery. Because of the small profit margins, keeping operation costs low is vital for these services to survive.

One way is to reduce manpower through a batch-based model, where orders from various hawker stalls are consolidated and delivered to fixed locations and at regulated times – unlike previous services that deliver to customers’ doorsteps at any time of the day.

For example, WhyQ, which started in February, delivers only to the CBD.

Co-founder Varun Saraf, 27, was spurred to start the service by his lunchtime woes when he worked as a financial analyst in the CBD for four years. “The queues in the foodcourts were horrendously long and it took 45 minutes before I could finally eat,” he says. “It was too expensive and troublesome to find colleagues to combine orders on foodpanda to hit the minimum order.”

Yihawker, a hawker food delivery and listing platform founder Jonathan Tan (left) and co-founder Muhd Nur Azhar Mohd Maideen with Larry Ng (in blue) who runs Sin Bedok North BBQ Chicken Wing.

He left his job in October last year to start WhyQ with his friend, Rishabh Singhvi, 27, pumping in S$30,000 (RM94,000) for his share. The service charges a S$1.50 delivery fee and no minimum order is required. It receives about 500 orders daily from a pool of 7,500 customers.

During lunchtime, a delivery crew of 20 collects food in bulk and distributes it at more than 50 pick-up points at three fixed time slots. Varun intends to expand the service to other office zones such as Changi Business Park and one-north by this year.

FastBee.sg delivers to an even narrower area. Its vending machines are located at four office hubs in the West: CleanTech One, Science Park (which has two locations) and Mediapolis (open only to Mediacorp employees).

This “reduces time wastage from waiting for delivery pick-ups”, says Fastbee.sg founder Khoo Kar Kiat, 34, who left his eight-year job at the Economic Development Board in October last year to start the service with S$60,000 (RM190,000). He sells 160 packets of food daily and plans to have six more vending machines by this year.

Varun Saraf (right) and Rishabh Singhvi are co-founders of food delivery service, WhyQ.

HungrySia caters to only bulk orders. Founder Tan Yi Hao, 24, who is a final-year computer engineering undergraduate at Singapore University of Technology and Design, says that 80% of his business comes from companies that cater for staff meals. He gets more than 100 orders a month.

Yihawker founder Jonathan Tan, 27, was also behind hawker.today, which shut down in July last year after six months.

He says the previous company failed because it offered delivery islandwide, which required too much manpower.

Yihawker, launched earlier this month, focuses on delivering food from hawker centres in the east and central areas.

To stand out from the competition, he is adding functions that allow customers to track the number of people waiting in line at a particular stall before going down to the stall, and for hawkers to order ingredients. About 17 hawkers have signed up for these new services, which will start next month.

Tan says: “By using technology, hawkers can plan their workload and manage their business more efficiently.”

One of the hawkers using Yihawker’s delivery service is Larry Ng, 33, of Sin Bedok North BBQ Chicken Wing in Fengshan Market & Hawker Centre. He says: “Although sales have not improved by a lot, it is a contingency plan to get some business during rainy and hazy days, and to secure some corporate orders.”

Another hawker, Roy Tan, 43, of the Li Fang Zhou Pin congee stall in Yuhua Hawker Centre, says: “Being on the Fastbee.sg platform has allowed me to reach out to more customers and I can prepare these extra orders during off-peak periods.”

It is also a win-win situation for diners, who value such services for the convenience.

Production manager Desmond Ong, 37, who uses Fastbee.sg’s service for lunch on weekdays, says: “I can try food from different hawker centres without queueing or relying on one foodcourt near my office, and the additional service fee of S$1.50 is reasonable.” – The Straits Times/Asian News Network/Kenneth Goh

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