Brisk business is undoubtedly a good thing, but what happens if you cannot cope with the high demand?
During the circuit breaker, F&B merchants and delivery personnel have been facing an influx of online orders — much more than they can handle.
There were a few occasions when a surge in online orders translated into a nightmare. F&B businesses struggled to fulfil the orders, while delivery riders had to endure a longer-than-usual waiting time for the orders to be ready.
As a result, tensions ran high and fights broke out between the two parties.
Arguments Over Food Delivery Orders
In fact, two separate arguments broke out last month.
One argument took place at Taiwanese bubble tea brand Playmade’s Waterway Point outlet, after the government announced that all standalone bubble tea stores have to be closed as part of extended circuit breaker measures.
A viral video showed a Playmade staff scolding a GrabFood rider with expletives. Triggered by his rudeness, the rider became aggressive, which even led to an arrest due to public nuisance.
In a Facebook post, Playmade cited “immense pressure” experienced by both staff members and delivery riders as they had received over 150 different orders, which amounted to an average of 600 cups, within the last hour of closing alone.
The following day, another argument broke out between a GrabFood rider and fast food restaurant Burger King staff in Ang Mo Kio, allegedly over cancelled food orders.
Both parties have been advised on their legal recourse and the staff has since been fined $300 for breaking a circuit breaker measure (he took off his mask in the video).
Through these incidents, it’s clear to see that coping with the surge in food delivery orders can be extremely stressful.
Sandwiched Between Merchants And Customers
Delivery riders are placed in an awkward situation because they are sandwiched between the customers and the F&B merchants.
While F&B staff grapple with the overwhelming number of orders (as more online orders stream in), delivery riders also face a certain level of stress and frustration.
One GrabFood driver named Jerry Toh took to Facebook on May 9 (Saturday) to express his frustration collecting customers’ orders from restaurants during peak periods.
In his post, he shared that restaurant staff are hostile when food delivery riders or drivers ask them if the orders are ready.
He lamented that “there are those restaurants that are not ready for operation but they start to take in online orders (anyway).”
Citing a personal experience, he said that he was told to wait for 30 minutes because the restaurant was not opened yet.
“Why would these restaurants do that? Not only (do) we riders need to wait, their customers would also have to wait,” he wrote.
Food Delivery Is A Waiting Game
One Lalamove driver, Daniel, said that he went to collect an order from Compass One’s Soup Restaurant on the day before Mother’s Day, and there was already very high demand.
When he finally got his order, it was already 6.45pm, more than an hour from the time the order was supposed to be ready.
It turns out that they were serving a previous GrabFood order first, but the GrabFood rider was already waiting for 40 minutes then.
When the GrabFood rider asked a staff “how come [the order is taking] so long?”, the restaurant staff said to her colleague in exasperation: “He’s so rude! Let him wait!”
Although his order was ready for collection, the staff told her colleague to “put it aside first” while she called out the number of another order, which was picked up by another delivery rider.
Another food delivery rider also mentioned that he had to wait for two whole hours just to pick up one order at Northpoint City’s Collin’s.
When contacted, Collin’s declined to comment on the situation.
On reddit, a user who identified himself as a GrabFood rider affirmed that “the orders were crazy mad” on Mother’s Day and there was a waiting time of about 1 to 2 hours.
Complaints From Unhappy Customers
Daniel said that while he had only been on the job for almost three weeks now, he had already gotten a few earfuls from customers.
It wasn’t even his fault, he stressed. The orders were already late when he picked them up from the restaurants.
He added that he is usually on time to pick up the orders, sometimes even 5 to 10 minutes earlier.
One such order was from Ah Yat Seafood at Turf Club Road. After he had picked up the job on the Lalamove app, the restaurant staff even wanted to bring the order directly to him at the nearby carpark as it was already very delayed.
When he finally reached the customer’s doorstep at 9pm on Mother’s Day, the customer talked to him rudely: “Do you know what time it is now? My food was supposed to arrive earlier!”
When Vulcan Post clarified with Ah Yat Seafood on this, they denied that such an accident took place, but commented that manpower will always be an issue.
F&B Bizs Struggle During Peak Periods
While the bubble tea incident is a good example of how it is a challenge for both sides whenever there is an increase in orders during peak periods, the recent Mother’s Day was equally a nightmare.
In light of the dining-in ban, families had to order their Mother’s Day celebratory meals through deliveries or takeaways.
Angry Singaporeans took to social media to complain about the long waiting times, unfulfilled orders and radio silence from many restaurants.
As a result, their celebrations were ruined and families had to scramble for last-minute alternatives.
One of the restaurants mentioned was Chinese restaurant chain, Dian Xiao Er.
Many of its customers complained on the restaurant’s Facebook page that they were left hanging for their Mother’s Day dinners when the restaurant cancelled their pre-orders 30 minutes before the orders were supposed to arrive.
When contacted, the restaurant’s management replied that they “did face difficulties in managing pre-orders from delivery platforms which do not have a limit to the number of pre-orders per time slot and come with short preparation time”.
While they had activated all their staff on Mother’s Day and the outlets have also stopped taking in further orders upon knowing that they have reached their maximum capacities, they could not fulfil all the orders.
Dian Xiao Er also said that they are reaching out to affected customers who had their orders cancelled or did not receive their order to offer them a full refund.
This episode of overwhelming orders serves as an important lesson for our team to improve the efficacy and efficiency of our operations processes so as to better serve our customers in future.– Dian Xiao Er
Another F&B company that had netizens fuming was Paradise Group, which helms several popular chains including Canton Paradise and Paradise Dynasty.
According to commenters on its Facebook page, some did not receive their orders while others received incomplete orders.
When contacted, a spokesperson said that they have actually deployed extra manpower at the outlets during the Mother’s Day weekend but the situation was an oversight on their part.
Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly our fault that we have underestimated the volume and size of the orders, which is a stretch on logistics and operational capabilities on this special occasion.– Paradise Group
Paradise Group expressed that “this is the first time Paradise Group is on a full take-out and delivery basis for Mother’s Day celebration.”
Besides them, there were many restaurants operating on a takeaway and delivery basis for the first time and failed to handle the demand in orders.
In contrast to Dian Xiao Er’s reply, Paradise Group said that they had actually “limited the number of orders per delivery slot across all outlets prior to the weekend.”
However, a quick check on GrabFood and foodpanda showed that both restaurants are on the apps. We have since reached out to Dian Xiao Er to clarify.
Customers And F&B Bizs Had Troubles Cancelling Their Orders
According to Grab’s customer service, restaurants have to call the customer service hotline if they cannot fulfil the orders.
After which, Grab will close the restaurant on the app and help to cancel the orders.
If the restaurant operations are too busy and are overwhelmed with orders, they can choose to pause their operations for a specified time, added the Grab customer service officer.
Alternatively, customers can also cancel their orders through the customer service hotline.
However, some people who identified themselves as F&B merchants on reddit said that they could not cancel orders.
Another reddit user (qwerty198317), who identified himself as a food delivery rider said that neither the customer nor the rider could get through the hotline on Mother’s Day.
He was quick to clarify that it is not advisable for riders to cancel the order. If the rider cancels the job, it will just get passed on to the next available rider. Only the customer service operator can cancel the order permanently and stop the billing, he added.
To add on, user belmont_lay said that Grab’s customer service hotline was unreachable on Mother’s Day.
Indeed, there was an “unexpected technical glitch” with Grab.
The large spike in food orders on the platform on Mother’s Day, combined with the glitch on the platform, resulted in longer waiting times and a significant surge in the volume of calls to the company’s hotline from both delivery-partners and customers, said a Grab spokesperson.
Everyone Should Be Understanding
This serves as a lesson for all of us.
All stakeholders — delivery apps, F&B merchants, delivery riders, and even the customers — have a part to play in settling orders smoothly.
If it’s a special occasion, merchants should take the initiative to inform customers in advance if they don’t have the capacity to fulfil the orders so they can find alternatives.
When it comes to pre-orders, they should take it in at least a day before, rather than 2 to 3 hours before. By closing off the order slots early, it will help give them some breathing space to deal with the orders on hand.
Through these incidents, it’s also clear to see that both F&B merchants and delivery riders are just doing their jobs to their best abilities. That said, both parties should be forbearing towards each other before rashly getting into disagreements or fights.
The delivery personnel can also maintain a two-way communication with customers and give them regular updates on the status of their orders, through the app’s chat or phone function.
On that note, customers too should manage their expectations when placing orders during peak periods and be prepared to expect longer waiting times.
Food delivery firms like Grab should also be better prepared to handle large spikes in orders because apparently, it is not the first time (cue bubble tea madness) they have encountered it.
It is a testament to the mounting pressure those working in essential services face from the surge in demand during this period.
Therefore, it will immensely help if all individuals are understanding towards each other in this difficult period of time.
Featured Image Credit: Penang Foodie / TripAdvisor