Hawkers across the country have borne the brunt of the food ban in the face of Covid-19. Since the "Circuit Breaker" measures came into effect on April 7, eating in Hawker centers, cafes and other F&B premises has been prohibited, and only takeaway and delivery are permitted.
Hawkers, who haven't yet entered the grocery delivery app, are seeing a sharp drop in walk-in sales.
Even then, those who are already on the apps struggle to afford the high commission rates, which range from 30 to 40 percent.
Before Covid-19 / Photo Credit: Visit Singapore
We met with some street vendors to better understand their situation and find out what they are doing to deal with all of these sudden changes.
Turnover drops by 30 to 80 percent
Nowadays, healthy protein bowl retailer Beng Who Cooks only manages to sell seven to 15 bowls a day at his booth in the Hong Lim Complex Market & Food Center.
Jason Chua from Beng Who Cooks / Photo Credit: NTUC
For street vendors like him, located near the Central Business District (CBD), Singapore's work-from-home measures have had a greater impact on them than companies in the heartland.
On (better days) we are affected by 30 percent, while on a bad day we can see a drop in sales of up to 80 percent. But since the beginning of circuit breaker operations, it has been terrible. We only sell seven to 15 bowls a day.
Jason Chua, founder of Beng Who Cooks
Tan Wee Yang from Ah Tan Wings confirms the view that business volume in these times largely depends on the location.
While his Yishun outlet manages around 30 percent less sales, his Timbre + Outlet at Ayer Rajah Crescent shows a drastic drop in sales of 70 to 80 percent.
"If it's not near a residential area and only surrounded by offices, it's pretty bad," says Har Cheong Gai's seller.
The drastic drop in sales:
|peddler||Kind of food||location||Effects of Covid-19|
|Beng who cooks||Protein shells||Hong Lim complex and food center||30-80% drop in sales|
|Ah Tan Wings||Fried chicken||Timbre +||70-80% decrease in sales|
|Ah Tan Wings||Fried chicken||Yishun Park Hawker Center||20-30% decline in sales|
|The fishball story||Fishball pasta||Timbre +||70% decline in sales|
Tan Wee Yang by Ah Tan Wings / Photo credit: WhyQ
The Fishball Story is also in Timbre + and has decided to close this point of sale and move to a new environment.
“I closed my Timbre + Outlet because of Covid-19. Business declined by more than 70 percent as customers who patronize us now work from home. For this reason, I opened a new outlet at 77 Circuit Road to take care of the people on the property, ”says founder Douglas Ng.
Douglas Ng (in red) of the Fishball Story / Photo credit: Douglas Ng
Food delivery apps are not Hawker's main business
A 2018 study by Deliveroo found that 69 percent of consumers in Singapore order via food delivery apps at least once a month.
That number has grown exponentially since then. Other retailers have joined delivery platforms such as foodpanda, GrabFood, Deliveroo and hawker food-centric WhyQ.
However, one thing remains the same: Many retailers are still very dependent on walk-in sales.
From their perspective, it's great to have sales with apps for food delivery, not a must. If there are one or two orders per day via the apps, retailers see this as a bonus.
Especially before the outbreak of the corona virus, many retailers saw apps for the delivery of food as a source of additional income, comparable to freelance work. It's nice to get some income from side jobs, but it's not your main job after all.
More Hawkers are turning to food delivery apps to increase sales
As we approached the start of the "circuit breaker," where jobs are closed and Singaporeans were asked to stay at home, more and more retailers pounced on food delivery apps before the ban on eating.
Hawker Food Delivery Platform WhyQ's co-founder, Rishabh Singhvi, confirmed over the phone that the number of new Hawkers on the platform has increased.
They also turned to dealers in their current database for help and to find out which dealers will keep or close their stands.
We have opened an online registration function to make online onboarding easier. We have also set up a hotline for Hawker support where you can call. We used to go to every Hawker booth to meet them physically. So far we have had three to four times as many requests as when we only had a dedicated email. With the support of the hotline and online registration, as well as Covid-19, we basically “exploded”.
Rishabh Singhvi, co-founder of WhyQ
The local startup also has "Hawker captains" hand out business cards to Hawker partners and non-WhyQ Hawkers to convince older Hawkers to register orally with WhyQ.
"In a situation without Covid19, older retailers may not be receptive to delivery apps (but) Covid-19 made them more willing to use technology," he says.
If some street vendors are still uncomfortable using the app, the street vendor captains also help them by placing orders manually.
This is a great opportunity for WhyQ to take advantage of this. They are the grocery delivery service that promises a low delivery fee of just $ 1.50 and they don't set a minimum order amount.
Photo credit: WhyQ
With other apps for the delivery of food, F&B retailers save between 30 and 40 percent on all orders. That's equivalent to $ 1.50 (30 percent) for $ 5 worth of Yong Tau Foo.
They also tend to have minimum orders – $ 10 for Foodpanda, $ 8 for GrabFood. Deliveroo has no minimum order quantity, but there is a small order fee.
Hawkers, who already use apps for food delivery, are now doubling these services to keep the business going.
I'm definitely moving to more online deliveries, but deliveries are taking a huge turn. But every turnover is better than no turnover.
Tan Wee Yang, founder of Ah Tan Wings
foodpanda recently partnered with WhyQ to expand the options for Hawker food delivery.
There are currently over 300 street vendor stands on Foodpanda. By the end of the year, however, an additional 80 hawker centers across the island are expected to be on board to represent more than 1,000 hawker stands.
Some Hawkers hire their own delivery drivers
Ah Tan Wings is with WhyQ, Foodpanda, GrabFood and Deliveroo, while Beng Who Cooks and The Fishball Story make their own deliveries.
For The Fishball Story founder Douglas, he says that he is doing his part to help some privately rented drivers.
"I give them all the shipping costs. Some also have families to feed. Even if there are four to five deliverers, I will do my best for them too, ”said Douglas.
Beng Who Cooks, on the other hand, switched to an online ordering system via a Google form they set up. Since they are in the CBD, they have fully experienced the effects of office workers working from home.
"Everything, 100 percent of Beng Who Cooks revenue, comes from pre-ordering online for this" circuit breaker "period," said Jason Chua, co-owner and chef.
Photo credit: Beng Who Cooks
“Since the day the government announced that the 'breaker' will happen, we've already launched an island-wide delivery. Come on, we all know that anyone who works in the CBD area would already be working from home! We either deliver all over the island or we (die) with Covid-19, ”he says quite frankly.
You may be thinking, "If there are apps for food delivery, why should I order my meals directly from these retailers?"
Well, not all of them are included in the Food Delivery Apps.
Allied Foodservice Equipment has compiled a comprehensive list of Heartland retailers that are open and offer food delivery – many are not included in third-party delivery apps.
Screen grave of the list / Photo credit: Allied Foodservice Equipment
Hawkers join forces on the Facebook group "Hawkers United – Dabao 2020"
A basic initiative that has attracted attention is a Facebook group to help street vendors who don't have delivery or marketing skills during the circuit breaker phase.
It quickly grew to 25,000 members within the first two days. The Facebook group "Hawkers United – Dabao 2020" currently has 210,000 members, a significant increase of 30 percent compared to 156,000 last Thursday.
"Dabao" essentially means "take away food" in Chinese and was created by Melvin Chew, a street vendor himself who wanted to preserve the street vendor culture in these challenging times.
Hawkers use the group as a venue to promote their food, and some fans also help shout about their favorite Hawker stands. We also see Samaritans who come forward and help older street vendors deliver orders from customers.
Many retailers also accept pre-orders by phone or text so that food is ready for the moment a customer reaches the booth to minimize social contact while waiting.
Like Douglas, a handful of street vendors do their own deliveries by working with private rental suppliers.
The Fishball Story is one of the dealers who joined the Facebook group.
WhyQ is currently in discussions with the creators of the Facebook group to expand their efforts and will announce their plans in due course.
NEA waives rental and cleaning fees to help Hawkers
With support from the National Environment Agency (NEA), more than 6,000 booth owners at 114 Hawker centers in Singapore won't have to pay for table cleaning and central dishwashing service from April 7th to May 4th.
I think it's definitely a good gesture from NEA, it really helps us get through this time.
It really keeps the street vendors going, especially the older street vendors who are considering hanging up their aprons and finally ending them.
Tan Wee Yang, founder of Ah Tan Wings
Douglas won't benefit from the Fishball Story because he doesn't have a booth managed by the NEA, but he calls the waiver a "big deal" for street vendors.
"Some street vendors were so worried before," he says.
He sees it as two sides of the same coin – some retailers are relieved and assured that they can only focus on serving food while others see it as "time for a break".
"Personally, I think these three months of waiver will help boost morale and help these street vendors make ends meet," said Douglas.
Photo credits: Visit Singapore
Support local businesses and help them survive
There are 114 Hawker centers in Singapore. This does not include hundreds of coffee shops, food courts, canteens and independent grocery stores and stands.
We could see 15,000 food stalls in Singapore.
It's daunting for players with the sheer number of rivals, and survival through the rounds has been further aggravated by Covid-19 and circuit breaker measures.
On days when you don't plan to cook at home, ordering from these small businesses is essential to maintaining the food industry. Otherwise, our favorite booths may be closed when Covid-19 is over.
Please #SupportLocal and # SaveF & BSG.
Selected image source: Michelin Guide / Beng Who Cooks / WhyQ