The current heightened alert is tougher for hawkers compared to the previous circuit breaker, said food critic and Makansutra founder KF Seetoh as he encouraged Singaporeans to order take out from their local hawkers instead.
In a video by Our Grandfather Story on Facebook on Sunday (6 June), he noted that thousands of mom-and-pop hawker stalls lack a social media presence, which puts them at a disadvantage against more social media savvy stores on food delivery apps.
He also attributed the reason of why many do not get on online food delivery platforms to the high commission fees of up to 30 per cent, not inclusive of the administrative fees.
One young hawker he interviewed pointed out that the 30 per cent fee eats into their profit margins and that they are “not earning at all”.
What’s more, these platforms do not allow or encourage stores to mark up their prices for their online menu.
In fact, the Foodpanda website states that “all dine-in prices and delivery prices must match” while Grab “strongly recommend for menu prices to be the same as those in-store”. The same goes for Deliveroo.
It is unknown what the platform fee is on Deliveroo in Singapore for restaurants who sign up. However, it is known that its UK partner takes up to 35 per cent commission plus value-added tax.
Mr Seetoh noted that now that people are staying home due to COVID-19 restrictions and many working from home, these hawkers stalls are just milling around waiting for customers to show up. Unfortunately, many have lost as much as 80 to 90 per cent of their sales during the pandemic.
Walking around the Jalan Berseh food centre, Mr Seetoh pointed out how people may show up for the handful of iconic stalls, but as many others are unknown but suffer due to a lack of social media presence.
The food critic emphasised that many Singaporeans are not aware of the challenges hawkers are currently facing in this second lockdown, pointing out that many stalls may just go belly-up if they don’t get much-needed support.
He went on to encourage Singaporeans to pool together orders and buy directly from stalls as a group to support hawkers, noting how they play a big role in everyday Singaporean life by providing affordable food.
He cautioned that hawkers may not last long if they aren’t supported right now by walk-in customers.
There are those apps that charge lower commission or no commission such as WhyQ. However, it has been pointed out the take up rate for such apps are not high enough to meet the needs of the hawkers.
The comments on the 3-minute video were mostly supportive of Mr Seetoh’s championing of hawker culture. Several people noted that they have been buying from hawker stalls to help support them.
Others suggested that hawkers should just mark up their prices to make up for the 30 per cent platform fees for food delivery, noting that Singaporeans wouldn’t mind paying the higher price. However, as mentioned above, this is discouraged by the platforms themselves, sometimes even disallowed.
A couple of people, however, highlighted that hawker food is best when consumed immediately and doesn’t taste as good after being delivered.
One netizens suggested that the government should absorb the rental cost for hawkers.
While another suggested that the government could create its own digital platform for food delivery that doesn’t charge a high fee, thus incentivising hawkers to get online as a way to increase sales.