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Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

New services in Singapore to tap spike in demand for online delivery

Google Pay Singapore introduces feature to enable the discovery of food pickup and delivery options, while taxi operator ComfortDelgro launches food delivery service that doesn't charge additional fees on cabbies or F&B merchants during the country's "circuit breaker" period.

New services are being introduced to tap growing demand for online delivery in Singapore, with local taxi operator ComfortDelgro launching a food delivery service and Google enabling the discovery of food pick-up and delivery options across the city-state. 

There has been a significant spike in grocery and food delivery services over the past couple of months, as residents hunker down at home and abide by the country's safe-distancing measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak

Local supermart chain FairPrice, for instance, has seen an almost three-fold increase in its online visits while online grocery services provider Redmart said its weekly average climbed 300% in the days after Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to orange. 

ComfortDelgro on Wednesday launched a service that would allow its fleet of 10,000 taxis to delivery food and beverages (F&B) daily from 9am to 10pm. The transport operator said the service, called ComfortDelivery, was introduced to aid taxi drivers in generating income during the COVID-19 pandemic and country's "circuit breaker" period, which has impacted their revenue intake. 

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Singapore is currently under stricter measures that force non-essential businesses to shut down or have all of their employees work from home, while food and beverage operators can only provide takeaway or delivery options. This "circuit breaker" period, originally scheduled to end on May 4, has since been extended to June 1. Additional measures have also been added, including the shutting of more retail services that were previously allowed to operate, such as standalone dessert and beverages outlets, hair salons, and pet stores. 

ComfortDelgro said deliveries would be charged based on distance, starting from SG$6.50, while deliveries with two drop-offs in a single booking pay a discounted fee starting from SG$8.50. 

Cab drivers will keep the entire delivery fee, said the taxi operator, adding that it would not charge any additional fees on either the drivers or F&B outlets during the circuit breaker period. 

The service had been on trial over the past week to allow cab drivers and merchants to familiarise themselves with the system and address any teething issues, said ComfortDelgro, adding that restaurants such as The Peranakan and The Straits Clan's Kin were amongst merchants that have signed up for the trial.

F&B stores can register for the service via its website and those running a chain will have to set up separate accounts for each location. 

According to the cab operator,  some 20 orders of up to three different destinations per order could be made at any one time. Drivers will bid for delivery jobs via the ComfortDelivery Driver App and, upon collection, will receive payment from the F&B outlet through PayNow or by cash. Deliveries also can be tracked through the platform, which will show the location of the taxi and time the order is fulfilled. 

ComfortDelgro Taxi CEO Ang Wei Neng said: "With ComfortDelivery, we want to give all F&B businesses access to fast, reliable, and affordable delivery service that benefits people who ask for the food to be delivered to them. In the process, our cabbies can also earn some extra income during these very challenging times." 

Raymond Khoo, who owns Nyonya cuisine restaurant, The Peranakan, said: "We have been experiencing a surge in delivery orders...[and] it is not an easy task sourcing for reliable delivery partners, as we have to ensure that customers get to enjoy our food fast and warm."

ComfortDelGro said its cab drivers would be trained on the usage of the app and safe food handling, and would have to adhere to safe distancing measures, including the contactless delivery process recommended by the Singapore Food Association.

Earlier this month, ComfortDelgro also announced plans to work with RedMart to enable some of its taxi drivers to support the latter's grocery delivery services. Interested drivers are currently being onboarded and undergoing training provided by RedMart, before they embark on delivery jobs by end-April. 

During this pilot, the cab drivers are picking up orders from RedMart's warehouse at Alexandra Terrace and delivering them to locations within the town areas. Drivers have also been trained to perform contactless deliveries and deliver orders directly to a customer's doorstep, in keeping with RedMart's service process. 

Putting food deliveries on the map

Meanwhile, Google on Tuesday introduced a feature on its mobile payment tool to facilitate the discovery of food pickup and delivery options across Singapore. 

With F&B establishments prohibited from offering dine-in services during the country's safe-distancing measures, many have had to turn to informal ways to share their menu and promote their pickup and delivery options, said Google. 

The tech giant said the new menu discovery tool on Google Pay was developed specifically for the local F&B community, including coffee shops and hawker stalls, and enables customers to browse menus, select items, and contact the food merchants to place and pay their orders. They can also opt to pick up their order or have it delivered, said Google. 

In addition, users can share the menus of their favourite dining outlets with their friends using a custom link on the mobile app. 

Google Pay Singapore is available for Android and Apple iOS devices. 

The new menu discovery feature launched with more than 100 F&B businesses including Cedele, Da Paolo, and Tuk Tuk Cha to offer more than 250 eateries from which to order. 

In addition, Google said it was working with Singapore-based reservation booking platform Chope to make the new feature available to the latter's dining partners. 

Google Singapore's director of engineering for payments and engineering site lead, Patrick Teo, said: "Quick food pickups and door-to-door deliveries are now a necessity as Singaporeans stay home during this critical period ... We hope to make the process of discovering local eateries simple and easy, and support even the smallest businesses -- like hawkers -- and minimise disruptions to their business. 

"We have rushed to get this out and will continue to improve the experience and hope that the easy access to a variety of food options will help Singaporeans enjoy their meals safely at home and support small businesses during these tough times," Teo said. 

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