Tue | Jun 2, 2020

Food-delivery boom gobbles COVID profits

Published:Thursday | March 19, 2020 | 12:27 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
A QuickPlate motorcyclist exits 80 LMR in St Andrew on Wednesday. The food-delivery outfit has noticed an increase in user registration amid the local spread of COVID-19 in Jamaica and intends to launch a grocery-delivery offering early next week.
A QuickPlate motorcyclist exits 80 LMR in St Andrew on Wednesday. The food-delivery outfit has noticed an increase in user registration amid the local spread of COVID-19 in Jamaica and intends to launch a grocery-delivery offering early next week.

Online food delivery services are sinking their teeth into bigger profits as Jamaicans skip crowded restaurants and opt to stay indoors in line with a COVID-19 ban on mass gatherings.

Starting yesterday, the Government imposed crowd-control measures for seven days to reduce the risk of spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 20 people are allowed to share a space, and popular food establishments have temporarily banned dining.

Chief operations officer (COO) of 7Krave, Shanalee White, disclosed that business has hiked by 50 per cent in the last week.

“We have definitely observed a spike in the number of day-to-day orders that we would receive. Persons who are still working are not comfortable leaving their office space, and even people who are working from home are making orders,” she told The Gleaner yesterday.

On an average day, 500 delivery requests would be filled, but now, the company is fulfilling up to 750 deliveries daily.

7Krave has 13 full-time bearers and has extended its fleet by three to accommodate higher demand. White said that a number of restaurants have sought to be added to 7Krave’s database.

“In light of what is happening, we do have a few restaurants that have decided to close temporarily or made changes to their opening hours,” White said.

The operators are maintaining their weekday delivery hours but are considering changes for Sundays. All its riders are holders of food handler’s permits and have been mandated to travel with hand sanitiser.

Though cash payments are accepted, 7Krave has encouraged customers to make payments online to reduce contact during deliveries.

“The time for delivery has cut down significantly. Deliveries are usually processed within 45 minutes to an hour, and now, customers are able to get their food within 30 minutes,” White told The Gleaner.

Checks done by The Gleaner revealed that there are more than a dozen other food-delivery businesses that operate mainly in Kingston.

SPECIAL DELIVERY FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS

Another operator, Pekkish Jamaica, said that it has also seen an increase in orders both in Kingston and Montego Bay but declined to divulge numbers.

COO Shanay Ming said the company is planning to offer delivery deals for healthcare workers who are on the front line of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.

“Standard delivery time has been reduced, especially for our car deliveries, and we also do bike deliveries,” Ming said.

Like 7Krave, operating hours have generally remained the same, but Ming said the company is willing to facilitate restaurants that operate beyond their 8 p.m. delivery cut-off time.

The COO forecasts that delivery requests will increase in the coming days. Pekkish has also sought to protect its drivers and customers as Jamaicans work to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have given them packages with hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes, and they are aware of the ministry’s recommendations re social distancing. Our riders don’t handle money at all because the business is completely online, so their interaction with customers is very limited,” Ming explained.

QuickPlate Jamaica CEO Monique Powell said that she has seen a “definite increase in users”.

Powell is in the process of hiring deliverymen to add to the company’s 14 drivers.

“Between yesterday and today, we added three drivers. We are doing it on a gradual basis. As the demand for the service increases, we will continue to take on board new drivers and riders,” she said.

Seventy-plus restaurants currently partner with QuickPlate, and Powell projects that that number might top 80 by the end of the month.

Delivery is offered in Portmore, Kingston, and St Andrew.

Come next week, a spin-off of QuickPlate, QuickCart, will be launched.

“We are fast-tracking the launch of this grocery delivery service because we feel that at this time, a lot of people would appreciate the convenience of that,” said Powell.

Jamaica has recorded 15 confirmed cases of the disease. One person has died.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com