New Normal Fuels Growth of Food Delivery in Bangkok

Sirinya Wattanasukchai




Thanks to growing delivery troop, more and more urban dwellers can enjoy their favorite from anywhere without going anywhere.

Large is more. Kasikorn Research Center recorded a 41% growth in online food delivery in 2019 and expects the industry to grow by 78-84% in 2020. That may sound unrealistically high, but the “new normal“ brought to us by Covid-19 has made it real. The whole country was under a two-month lockdown and consumers became more concerned about infection, prompting them to stay home and rely more on food delivery.

Recently, an online survey by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) conducted between March 5th and 15th, 2020 also showed how popular the service is among different segment and why they love it.

According to the survey, 85% of respondents were food delivery customers. About one half are members of Gen Y. And 40% of these young people used the service because they were worried about Covid-19 infections as compared to 30% of other age groups. 

Of all respondents, about 80% said the service saved on their travelling time while about 57% mentioned less queuing time. Spending also varied from one generation to another. While Gen X spends around 501-1,000 baht per time, Baby Boomers pay around 301-500 baht, and Gen Y and Gen Z spend less than 300 baht.

The voice from the users also confirms that the delivery service fits perfectly with “new normal” life the Covid-19 has brought us.

A food service worker handing a bag of groceries to a woman.

In pre-Covid-19 times, an office worker in her mid-30s who asked to be referred to as Tai enjoyed having her lunch delivered as it meant she didn’t have to leave her desk and brave the hot sun and the queue. The service by the convenience store on the ground floor of her office building was also free.

Delivery by a convenience store has made Tai’s work-from-home life during Covid-19 lockdown even smoother as she can’t cook. She can also work more efficiently as she doesn’t have to bother about going out for lunch.

“When I can’t decide what to eat, I either walk to the store or scroll down the menu on the store’s app and place an order [to have the food or snack delivered] if I’m too busy,” said Tai. 

“It’s very convenient,” said Vipada who lives in Ploenchit, a business district of Bangkok. She regularly orders anything from fast food like pizzas and burgers to cooked-to-order Thai food from roadside shops across Bangkok.

Her private yoga class was just over and the group having agreed on what they wanted for lunch, Vipada tapped the screen of her mobile phone a few times then announced that the meal would be delivered within half an hour, giving just enough time for everyone to get changed and ready for lunch. Thirty minutes later, the table was set and everyone was ready to dig into the freshly cooked food that was still warm.

An employee enjoying takeaway food at their office desk.

Vipada and her friends are among millions of Bangkok residents making the most of the latest urban lifestyle. Costing only a small fee, life has never been easier as almost all the food on the menus of roadside shops or convenience stores can be delivered to your doorstep just by tapping the app on your smartphone. Ordering in has become more common both during and since the lockdown, as due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thais were encouraged to work from home and go out only for essential trips. More and more people have taken to relying on food deliveries whether by food delivery companies, restaurants or convenience stores services.

However, on-demand food delivery isn’t the only service created to cater to the urban lifestyle. During the lockdown, convenience store chains began to introduce a similar service, delivering ready-to-eat food to the doorstep of any customers living close to their branches and helping people avoid non-essential trips.

“I don’t have to set foot out of the house,” said a female customer in her 70s, standing behind the door of her residence as she paid for three lunchboxes. Within 100metres of her centrally-located house, there are at least one food shop, two coffee shops and two other convenience stores.

Since 2015, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has been reclaiming public space from illegal street vendors in 175 spots to improve the cityscape and food hygiene with the result that street food has become harder to find in certain areas, especially in the inner city. Many vendors have lost their former clientele while customers have needed to find new favourite food shops to replace the one that has disappeared. 

In a way, the service has supported local food vendors and provided job opportunities for the delivery people too, said Tai. Now the food can be delivered to customers on the other side of the city despite the bustling urban life, not just to regulars in the neighborhood.

In her view “It’s win-win-win; diners can order food from their favourite stalls that have relocated to other areas, vendors can promote their shops through the app and keep their business, and the delivery people have a job.”

A series of delivery motorcycles for GRAB and FOOD PANDA delivery.

Sirinya Wattanasukchai

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