Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the perfect time for every one to get together, chat, and of course, eat!
Feel like having a bite but always yearn to stay cozy at home with your family instead of going out? Food delivery naturally comes to mind, but it’s frustrating when it is limited to only a few options- Fast food, pizza or lunchboxes (which are not available in a small order).
To bring food delivery to the mass market and help hungry folks discover the variety of restaurants with food delivery options, FoodPanda launches its service and positions itself as the largest food delivery platform.
Headquartered in Singapore, FoodPanda was founded in 2012 targeting Asia’s food delivery market. So far, it has operations within Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and India. Globally, it operates in a total of 30 countries. The company recently also expanded its presence by bringing food delivery to users in Taiwan.
Vulcan Post had the pleasure to speak to FoodPanda Taiwan’s CEO, Ron, to understand more about its operations in Taiwan.
FoodPanda Taiwan: A quietly growing food paradise
Rooted in Taiwan since the mid of 2012, FoodPanda provides delivery services in Taipei City, New Taipei City and Taichung. FoodPanda adopts a dual order system – users can place orders either through its website or on its app.
Placing an order on FoodPanda is relatively easy.
After you have selected your location, the website would display a list of restaurants available for food delivery. Ron shares with Vulcan Post that FoodPanda applies a set of algorithms to identify restaurants located within seven kilometers from their customers’ locations. With this, FoodPanda is able to control the general delivery time and keep it within less than one hour, while taking into account meal preparation time.
Apart from placing real-time orders, customers can submit pre-orders as early as two weeks in advance. Delivery is available depending on the different restaurants’ operating hours.
Currently, FoodPanda accepts orders from 9:30 am to 9 pm everyday.
Since its inception into Taiwan, FoodPanda has kept a low profile, running only its Facebook Page and food blog to gain exposure.
However, things are going to be different this year onward.
Expect more aggressive publicity from FoodPanda Taiwan this year
Whilst building up its delivery team over the past one and a half year, FoodPanda has been actively forging partnerships with restaurants. Confident with its restaurant listings and delivery infrastructure, FoodPanda will focus on more advertising and publicity activities this year.
With social media a major part of FoodPanda’s global social marketing strategy, FoodPanda Taiwan has seen steady growth with its global Facebook page. Ron explained that out of the 820,000 fans on the global FoodPanda Facebook page, over 10% of the visitors, a relatively high percentage, are from Taiwan.
This is a result not only from the fact that Taiwan’s Facebook penetration rate tops other Asian countries; the country is also an obvious haven for foodies.
Other than Facebook, FoodPanda plans to launch its PR activities via newsletters, mobile app notifications as well as through Google advertisements. It also looks forward to offer print brochures featuring restaurant menu listings from local eateries, hotels and other public locations to attract the attention of its Taiwanese users.
Having tested most of the marketing channels, “the most effective marketing comes from word of mouth,” Ron told Vulcan Post.
With that in mind, FoodPanda is determined to improve its user’s experience.
Growing FoodPanda’s own delivery team
Taiwan is renowned to offer a wide variety of food, ranging from street foods to high-end cuisines, from local flavors to exotic tastes. However, it is also a place where people frequently dine out, leaving food delivery options restricted to just a few.
FoodPanda Taiwan saw this as a potential market, and seized the opportunity.
“Most delicacy restaurants in Taiwan do not offer delivery service, and we are going to change that,” said Ron the CEO.
Aiming at customers in the middle-upper income bracket, FoodPanda Taiwan took efforts building its own delivery team from scratch. To recruit more high-end restaurants on board, FoodPanda Taiwan borrowed the packaging technology from its Malaysia branch, while at the same time, set up a delivery team that went through comprehensive training.
Indeed, it requires much efforts to reach success. In less than two years, FoodPanda Taiwan secured partnerships with more than 800 restaurants. Most of them, such as Chili’s, Bellini Pasta Pasta, and Movenpick Café, also only started their first delivery service with FoodPanda.
Some partnering restaurants, like Dominos, joined FoodPanda while retaining their own delivery service. Such a situation is perfectly acceptable for FoodPanda, as Ron explained that “to gain more exposure, it never hurts to have more people know about you.”
At present, FoodPanda’s delivery service is used by 75%* of the pool of restaurants under it. Aside from Taiwan, FoodPanda also develops its own delivery team in Malaysia and Thailand.
An ideal channel bridging together restaurants and customers
When asked about the criteria by which FoodPanda abides while picking restaurant partners, Ron said that FoodPanda’s only requirement is great foods which can deliver great values. To them, it does not matter if the restaurant is new, small or less famous; only if it offers food that brightens up people’s eyes.
FoodPanda Taiwan’s team, including Ron himself, would taste dishes of every potential partner before making a decision whether it is a fit, since it is definitely a no-go for FoodPanda to present customers with low-value food.
“People would not only hate the food, but hate FoodPanda and never come back,” added Ron.
Upon alliance with FoodPanda Taiwan, some restaurants have successfully embraced a 25% revenue growth. Beyond that, FoodPanda works with less well-known restaurants by offering discounts with these eateries on FoodPanda. Occasionally, restaurants also consult FoodPanda to advise them about their business strategy.
FoodPanda strongly believes its essence is this: To ally with restaurants and bring mutual benefits and growth.
Among the restaurants listed with FoodPanda, the average price per dish is NTD250(USD8.50). To reach out to potential customers, FoodPanda turned to households, a different step from its previous strategy aimed at corporate groups.
Target customers include white collars, celebrities, and movie actors, who either tend to be too busy to dine out, or value privacy more than anything else.
In the event of frequent showers or extreme temperatures in Taiwan, FoodPanda’s service was also seen to be of significant value, further encouraging more customers to jump onboard. In either of the scenarios above, it was shown that the delivery fee of NTD100-200(USD3.5-7) hardly constituted as a hindrance to customers.
Since the step up to target higher earning consumers, business has been taking off.
An interesting fact worth bringing up is, customers can also enjoy Costco’s food through FoodPanda, offered exclusively within Taiwan. I have to admit that I was surprised to see the American’s chain supermarket on FoodPanda’s page.
“People love Costco and its well-priced delicious food,” mentioned Ron. Based on users’ location proximity to Costco, FoodPanda’s delivery men would head to Costco to buy food first before performing its delivery. In other words, FoodPanda acts as a reseller of Costco’s food. This is a special partnership different from others the company is dealing with, bringing in a refreshing experience for FoodPanda users.
What this also means is that you no longer have to drive all the way to the suburbs for a bite of Costco’s juicy beef rolls!
FoodPanda Taiwan addresses some difficulties and challenges
Ron also shared with Vulcan Post how things were like during the time before FoodPanda’s delivery team. Initially, FoodPanda Taiwan only worked with restaurants with their own delivery services. But, since FoodPanda is unable to track delivery statuses, late deliveries happened very frequently. The business was further seen unfavorable when some restaurants reject FoodPanda’s orders as they are too busy handling their own share of walk-in customers.
“Of course, customers were furious.” Ron sighed.”In the end, we had to cut off some difficult relationships.”
Challenges still existed after the delivery team was set up. Chances are that restaurants might reach their capacities when taking both walk-in and FoodPanda’s orders.
Fortunately for FoodPanda, most of their listed partners are chain restaurants, so when one restaurant gets its hands full, it can transfer some orders to another chain. If, a non-chain restaurant is under such circumstance, which is rare, FoodPanda would quickly act to inform customers and check if a similar alternative restaurant is acceptable.
The CEO talks about FoodPanda Taiwan’s prospects
Raised and educated in Canada, Ron, the CEO of FoodPanda Taiwan, had previously worked in hi-tech companies including Oracle and RIM, and pursued his post-MBA career as a consultant. Taking on a managerial role in FoodPanda Taiwan, he said a tech background enables him to have a better command of e-commence and a consulting experience helps him analyze problems from different angles.
Concluding about what shapes a successful team and company, Ron emphasised that “skills are important, but passion is everything that really matters.”
2014 is a significant year for FoodPanda Taiwan. It will be a year of rapid expansion – FoodPanda expects to launch business in Changhua and Hsinchu next month, followed by Keelung and Taoyuan, and finally Kaohsiung, all in the same year.
Soon, its service regions will cover the most populated areas of Taiwan and more restaurants will build connection with locals through FoodPanda.
In the near future, you don’t have to be in Taipei to get great food delivered. A perfect channel is there to present you with restaurants you probably would not hear of elsewhere.
As a foodie, just imagining that is exciting enough.
*Numbers shall change after Dominos is on board with FoodPanda Taiwan.