With an abundant number of cafes, michelin-star restaurants and hawker centres emerging in Singapore, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to thinking of where to eat. In addition, there is now an easier and more convenient way to order and collect your food faster for all the busy bees. The food industry’s involvement with foodtech solutions are not left unseen and one example would be how many of us have food delivery, meal subscription and restaurant reservation apps on our phone.
Let us look at the types of foodtech solutions that the Singapore’s food scene has tapped into.
Restaurant pagers/ buzzers
If you’ve ever worked as a waiter or a server for any food establishment, you’ll know the pain of memorizing all the table numbers and fumbling with more than 3 portions of food and drinks to customers. To make matters worse, when you’re serving a customer you hear the bell to pick up the food for the next customer and there isn’t enough staffs to serve all the food to the rest of the hungry customers in time.
Manpower shortage isn’t uncommon in the food industry but restaurant pagers has come to save the day. These palm-sized pagers are used not only in restaurants, but hawker centres and cafes too. Customers get assigned one pager/ buzzer when they make their order and can proceed back to their seats while they wait for their food. This way, it ensures that customers will not have to stand to wait for their food and can roam around the vicinity or sit at their tables till it lights up and rings to collect their food – which increases efficiency in food collection and the overall kitchen flow.
Along with the trend of going “cashless”, Singaporeans can now pay with their electronic devices with payment apps such as “Paylah” by DBS, “NetsPay” by Nets, “GrabPay” by Grab and “FavePay” by Fave at most food establishments.
With so many different e-wallets and payment terminals, it may be a hassle to manage the accounts, especially for hawkers. Thus, Nets has been appointed by the government to bring e-payments to all 12,000 stalls at hawker centres, canteens and coffee shops in Singapore with a single, unified system. The all-in-one Nets e-payment terminals which can read contactless and chip-based cards, and process QR code payments, will also be rented to hawkers for no charge for the first three years but hawkers have to sign up before August 2020 to get the three-year fee waiver.
Payments to merchants are settled within one business day (for transactions made before 11pm) and transactions made by American Express, Mastercard and Visa will be credited within two days after the close of the business day. Currently, the transaction fee of 0.5% is borne by the government for the first 3 years after hawkers have signed up with Nets. (Source: The Straits Times)
Such innovative payment apps provides both consumers and owners of food business with the ease of handling cash transactions, managing expenditures and earn rewards. If you’re an owner of a food business in Singapore, or intending to be one, you can also consider signing up with Nets to enjoy the benefits.
No more queuing
During lunch time, we often see long snaking queues at food centres and long waiting times in restaurants or cafes around the CBD area and some of us only have 1 hour to grab lunch and get back to the office. Faced by similar problems, the app creators of CutQ and Waitrr designed their app to solve this.
CutQ is created to basically let customers “cut queue”. They partner with merchants located around CBD area and let customers place their order and pay in their app beforehand and they can just proceed to pick up their order at the respective cafe or restaurants without having to wait in line. This helps people save time, especially for those that want to grab coffee on their way to work or pick up a quick bite before rushing to the next meeting. (Source: VulcanPost)
Similar to CutQ, Waitrr also allows customers to order and pay for their meals through the app but Waitrr has both dine-in and takeaway options. In terms of dining in, the app helps restaurants that are understaffed and not well equipped to serve peak hour crowds by allowing users to take orders, get their bills and make payments. Also, it also serves to optimise the restaurant’s operational efficiency by automating most of their ordering process. All of the orders made in the app are sent directly to the kitchen and the staff only needs to prepare and serve food, which saves them time and also allows the service staff to better focus on customer service. They also have a takeaway function that allows restaurants to receive potential customers that they might miss when people call in to order but the staffs are too busy to pick up the phone. This function allows customers to order in advance and pick up at their selected timings. (Source: VulcanPost)
Food delivery apps
Last but not least, food delivery apps. We all have at least one of the food delivery apps – GrabFood, Deliveroo or Foodpanda on our phone and they all operate an on-demand service for hungry customers, each having at least 4,000 restaurant partners. These delivery apps provides convenience and lets people save the time and hassle to get their food outside.
GrabFood is owned by Grab while foodpanda is owned by Frankfurt-listed foodtech giant Delivery Hero. Deliveroo Singapore is also a foodtech company that aims to deliver food to diners quickly.
These delivery apps tap on data analytics to compete and cater to customer tastes. According to managing director of foodpanda Singapore, Mr Luc Andreani, data currently drive about 90 per cent of its decisions, such as its rider-order allocation system. The platform has shifted from manual to automated processes which helps to optimise the allocation of riders to the location of food orders and customers. This helped to reduce their delivery time by half.
For most of the food delivery apps, they rely on data collection and algorithms to provide real-time feedback to restaurant partners, including key peak times, to help improve delivery efficiency too. (Source: Channelnewsasia)
A word of advice from Mr. Chhor, managing partner at Qualgro VC said in an interview that for established platforms to succeed, they must build a “real business” around foodtech. “They must have a real startup within their startup, instead of just seeing the vertical as an incremental service.”
There is more to food start-ups than opening a cafe or a restaurant, if you’re keen to be involved with foodtech, there is also other opportunities to disrupt the food technology space in the food sciences and sourcing sectors such as dealing with food waste. According to Virginia Cha, adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Business School, there has been a notable realization about the big amounts of food wasted in Singapore. The National Environment Agency reported 788,600 tonnes of food was wasted in 2016, with only about 10 percent of that total recycled. Thus, she encourage entrepreneurs to think about the food space in the food growth layer. (Source: TechWireAsia)
Singapore is now a foodtech haven that is recognised by many. A few reasons that could attribute to it include a strong passion for food, tech-savviness, the increasing popularity of food bloggers, and a government that is supportive of digital solutions that help small businesses and solve manpower constraints.
So will YOU start the next foodtech company?
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