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Some food delivery workers see earnings dip as Covid-19 rules ease; Foodpanda and Deliveroo confident of sustained demand

SINGAPORE — Demand for food delivery services that soared during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown periods may have become lukewarm in recent weeks, going by the accounts of some delivery workers.

Some food delivery workers see earnings dip as Covid-19 rules ease; Foodpanda and Deliveroo confident of sustained demand
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  • Some food delivery workers have seen a significant loss in income in the past week
  • They chalked it up to more people being able to dine out together
  • There were also fewer orders possibly due to the fasting month of Ramadan for Muslims
  • The workers have to find ways to make up for their losses, while others have started considering other jobs

SINGAPORE — Demand for food delivery services that soared during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown periods may have become lukewarm in recent weeks, going by the accounts of some delivery workers.

As infection controls are relaxed and eateries see more customers return to dining on-site, the delivery riders said that their earnings have taken a beating, possibly also due to the fewer meals that people are taking in the day during the ongoing Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Food delivery firms such as Foodpanda and Deliveroo, on the other hand, are taking this adjustment period in their stride, saying that they are optimistic demand will continue even if Covid-19 regulations ease further, because ordering food online has become an "indispensable part of daily life" for consumers.

Ms Suriati Hashim, 60, a full-time delivery food rider who makes her runs for Deliveroo and Foodpanda, told TODAY that her income has taken an almost 40 per cent dive. 

"Usually I get at least 20 orders in a day, but nowadays, I get around 10 to 12 orders... It's very hard for me to reach my targets and I usually need to take on two jobs at once. This means I would do jobs for both Deliveroo and Foodpanda, especially if the delivery addresses are nearby in the same area." 

One rider, who wanted to be known only as Mr Zhang said: "The number of orders I get has gone down, but mostly because of Ramadan, since Muslims are fasting. The easing of rules has been less than a month, but I've felt the number of orders slowing down even before that."

The Muslim community here, which makes up about one-fifth of the population, have been fasting since the start of the holy month of Ramadan on April 3.

TODAY spoke to 10 delivery food riders who work for the three main food delivery firms GrabFood, Deliveroo and Foodpanda. Of the 10, two are working part-time and the rest are full-timers. 

Before (the change in Covid-19 rules), I could get at least 20 orders a day, but now, getting 10 is difficult.
Mr Jalani Mahmud, 54, a full-time food delivery worker

Covid-19 regulations governing social activities such as dining at eateries and group size for gatherings were eased from March 29.

All food-and-beverage (F&B) businesses, including hawker centres and coffee shops, are now permitted to seat groups of up to five fully vaccinated persons, without the need for checks on the patrons’ vaccination status at entry points. 

Most food delivery riders interviewed by TODAY have seen a major loss in earnings, especially the ones working full-time. 

One of them, Mr Jalani Mahmud, 54, said that the number of orders he receives a day has halved in the past week. 

"Before (the change in Covid-19 rules), I could get at least 20 orders a day, but now, getting 10 is difficult," he said. 

Others such as Mr Muqtasid Junjie, 27, a full-timer with GrabFood, said that he has had to spend more time waiting for orders to land.

"Last time, when I start work at noon, within five minutes, I get my first order. Now, I would have to wait up to 20 minutes for an order to come in."

He added that compared to the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Singapore went into partial lockdown in April 2020, the number of orders he completes in a day now has dropped by 30 per cent. 

Foodpanda said that people were ordering smaller quantities of items more frequently even before the Covid-19 pandemic, a pattern the firm noticed of customers' habits.

The food delivery riders told TODAY that they have had to find means of coping with the losses, which may mean cutting back on their spending or taking on other deliveries besides food.

Mr Muqtasid said that he started delivering parcels.

"At least for Grab, there are other options like GrabExpress. So I'll do deliveries for parcels if I don't receive any GrabFood orders." 

Mr Mohamed Jefry Mohd Ali, 48, who works with all three food delivery firms, said that he has had to be less "picky" about which orders he will accept, even if it means having to cycle further to complete a food order. 

"Nowadays, you pick a shop but you need to cycle more than 2km... This makes it much more challenging because of the distance and we would be very exhausted." 

Others have tried to cut back on spending by eating home-cooked meals. Mr Jalani said: "My family has stopped going out for meals and prefer to cook at home so that we can save more." 

Several riders also told TODAY that they may consider switching jobs if the lack of demand continues to persist. 

For instance, Mr Jalani said that he might turn food delivery into a part-time job and find a different day-job as his main source of income.

However, others have enjoyed some of the perks of being in the food delivery business, such as a greater flexibility in working hours, making it hard to find a different job. 

Ms Suriati said: "It has become so hard for me to save up to pay off my monthly bills. I am the sole breadwinner... But the working hours are flexible, so if anything happens at home, I can still go home."

We expect demand to remain consistent even as Singapore continues to ease measures.
Foodpanda

TODAY reached out to food delivery firms GrabFood, Deliveroo, Foodpanda and WhyQ to find out how many orders were placed from April to June 2020, when Singapore was under a partial lockdown, the same period last year and for the month of March this year.

Foodpanda said that the number of orders made on its mobile application has "remained consistent since the relaxation of restrictions" even in 2020, but was unable to give specific figures for orders. 

Deliveroo was also unable to give exact figures. 

However, both firms remained optimistic that demand for online food delivery will continue even as Covid-19 regulations ease further. 

Deliveroo said: "With food delivery becoming an indispensable part of daily life, we are seeing more customers and restaurants on the platform, though we, unfortunately, aren't able to share exact figures.

"With Singaporeans adjusting to new lifestyles of working and studying from home, especially in the earlier months of the pandemic, many have turned to food delivery platforms to enjoy their favourite meals."

Similarly, Foodpanda said: "We expect demand to remain consistent even as Singapore continues to ease measures.

"Even before the pandemic, we were already observing a shift in customers’ purchasing habits, where people were ordering smaller quantities of items more frequently — or what we term as 'quick commerce'. The pandemic merely accelerated what was already in motion." 

GrabFood and WhyQ did not respond by the time of publication.

Related topics

food delivery food delivery riders F&B Covid-19 Ramadan income Deliveroo Foodpanda

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