Coronavirus pandemic

Non-profit food delivery platform helps hawkers to go online

BySGForSG, which has no onboarding fees, offers a leg-up to small food and beverage businesses

While Mr Jack Ong, 31, was lining up to buy chwee kueh, the hawker told him that business had been bad during the circuit breaker period.

When Mr Ong asked why he did not use a delivery service, the hawker replied that the commission charged by major delivery platforms was too high and adopting the technology was a challenge.

That gave Mr Ong an idea.

The project director at an events company and 11 others put their heads together - as well as a five-figure sum of money - and set up BySGForSG, a non-profit food delivery platform for hawkers and small food and beverage businesses.

There are no onboarding fees and vendors are charged a 5 per cent commission, which is then donated fully to YMCA Singapore's Wok The Talk initiative that provides meals and groceries to the vulnerable.

Participating hawkers provide their stall name and a stall-front photograph to BySGForSG to be uploaded to its website.

Once their account is created, stall owners can add the items and prices themselves. Providing pictures of the dishes is optional.

For less tech-savvy hawkers who are not comfortable creating their listings on their own, BySGForSG will put up a listing for the hawker centre at which the stalls are located.

The team will add food items for the stalls and manage orders and payments. It will also churn out daily sales reports for the hawkers. This means the hawkers run their stalls as per normal, without having to use the platform directly.

So far, Pasir Panjang Food Centre is the only hawker centre listed, with at least 15 of its hawkers on board the platform.

BySGForSG has three or four volunteers at the centre during each shift. They buy food from the stalls ordered by customers on the online platform and take it to the central post at the hawker centre to await delivery pick-up.

The platform officially launched last Thursday but had started reaching out to vendors on May 11. More than 50 are now on board.

One of them is Mr Yeo See Hock, who runs Meng Kee Seafood at Pasir Panjang Food Centre. The 61-year-old sells zi char dishes including seafood hor fun, BBQ seafood and fish head steamboat.

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Mr Yeo said that because he has to keep prices low, the profit margins are also low. He also could not afford the 30 per cent commission charged by some major delivery platforms and their onboarding fees.

"Should we choose to raise our food prices, the food will be too expensive to be 'hawker food'. Customers would rather pay that amount for restaurant or cafe food and not order from us," said Mr Yeo.

Since the circuit breaker measures took effect on April 7, including a ban on dining in, the stall has experienced a 60 per cent fall in revenue, with only takeaway and delivery allowed.

More customers are also cooking at home, he added.

After Mr Ong's team helped him list his stall on BySGForSG, Mr Yeo has managed to recover 40 per cent of his losses, he said.

Mr Yeo added: "We feel (this initiative is) very meaningful as this is a win-win solution for merchants, customers, and the community."

Mr Ong and his team hope to keep this effort up for about three to six months.

"We will try to keep this running for as long as possible to benefit more people," he said.