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5 April, 2020 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 5 April, 2020 12:44:19 AM
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How online food delivery services are coping with COVID-19 outbreak

FAISAL MAHMUD
How online food delivery services are coping with COVID-19 outbreak

For Ashiqur Rahman, a deliveryman of online food delivery service Foodpanda, there were two options available to him on the eve of March 23—going back to his home in Narail district or remaining in the capital to continue business as usual.

On March 23, the Bangladesh government declared a 10-day general holiday to try and put the brakes on the COVID-19 outbreak across the country. The general holiday was later extended up to April 11 as there was no sign that the global pandemic was being restrained. “It was not an easy decision to make,” Ashiqur Rahman told The Independent. “Going back home and staying put means no income. I don’t have much savings and it wasn’t possible for me and my family to live on my savings for a long time. So I decided to stay back in the capital.”

Rahman’s food delivery routine, however, has changed a lot in the last few weeks. “First of all, most of the restaurants have closed down, and their staffers have gone back to their homes in the countryside. Very few restaurants and the fast food shops are open now,” said Rahman. Besides, he said, thanks to almost zero traffic on the roads, his delivery of food to people’s doorstep has become easier than before. “In normal times, we sometimes struggle to beat the traffic and deliver food  items to people’s house but now the scenario has completely changed—there are no traffic snarls on the roads and we can deliver food speedily,” he said.

Rahman also said that their salaries and bonuses have increased during these trying times. “A part of our salary in earlier times used to come from the delivery bonus. But as the number of deliveries has significantly fallen now, we can’t make much from the delivery bonus. So the company has increased the amount of money per delivery that we receive,” he said.

Online food orders

The reason that deliverymen like Ashiqur Rahman are still on the roads ferrying food to people’s doorsteps is that there are people like Saberid Rozin, a programmer of a software company. Rozin has been living in a single-room apartment in Jhigatola for the past three years. Being a seasoned freelancer, he has been earning a decent income of six figures.

“My work has not been hampered because of the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, my work pressure has increased, as I am getting more work orders. During this COVID-19 outbreak, people are increasingly learning the importance of working from home, something which we—the freelancers—have been doing for quite some time.”

Rozin said he does face one problem while staying at home and doing his work. “I am a mutt at cooking and I don’t know how to prepare a decent meal. I am overly dependent on food delivery services like Foodpanda or Pathao or Hungrynaki,” he confessed.

“Sometimes, I do go out and eat at restaurants, but my main way of getting food is through food delivery services. So, when I learned that the food delivery service will remain open during this time of the general holiday—which seems more like a lockdown—I breathed a sigh of relief,” said Rozin.

“I am, however, worried about the hygiene of the deliveryman. I usually wash my hands and try to disinfect the packet that the deliveryman brings. But there is a feeling of discomfort as things like COVID-19 have changed our mind-set and we have become more sceptical about other people’s sense of hygiene,” he said.

Hygiene top priority

The CEO of Foodpanda Bangladesh, Ambareen Reza, iterated that they are doing everything they can to ensure hygiene in the food that they deliver. “We are in constant communication with our restaurant partners following the latest World Health Organization (WHO) notices while advising them on the health and safety practices beyond our food hygiene expectations.” Ambareen Reza said they are also providing their deliverymen with masks, gloves and sanitizing items.

“We are concerned about the well-being of our deliverymen. So we are doing everything that we can to ensure their hygiene.”

The MD of Foodpanda said their company is committed to the well-being of their partners and will continue to monitor the situation, updating measures as required. She also said Foodpanda has adopted automation in every possible aspect. “Our software maintains historical data and the AI in the software calculates different vectors to give the customers insights, helping us provide better experience to our customers. Also, Foodpanda has been constantly upgrading itself.”

“If you look at our new app, you will see how many improvements we have made there. It needs only a few clicks, has lots of customized options, and updates you from the restaurant’s kitchen to your doorsteps,” she said. “We have also started grocery delivery services, considering the need of the hour. We have named it Panda mart. Here a user can order groceries or even medicines, and our deliverymen will deliver the stuff to his/her doorsteps,” she added.

Shezami Khalil, the spokesperson of Shohoz, told The Independent that they have introduced their new grocery and pharmacy services to help people during the time of shutdown as they have experienced a declining trend in food deliveries after most of the restaurants closed their operations to prevent the spread of Covid-19. “We have also introduced these new services to mainly help people obtain their necessary things and to encourage them to stay at home.”

Khalil also said they have given clear instructions to the restaurants that they partnered with to maintain a clear set of guidelines of hygiene while preparing food. “People who are ordering cooked food through our service are ordering out of desperation. We understand that. So we are trying to maintain the utmost possible hygiene while delivering the food to people’s houses,” she said.

Adopting the new way

The restaurants which keep themselves open during this time of COVID-19 have also been putting hygiene first and doing everything they can to maintain proper cleanliness in their kitchen.

Arman Mohammed, co-owner of Pizza delivery joint Cheez, told The Independent that their staffers are working in rosters in the kitchen to maintain as much social distancing as possible.

“The dine-in option in the restaurant is closed down. We’ve kept the dine-out and delivery options open. We don’t do that for business purposes. Rather, we’re keeping our restaurants open so that we can help people get food in their time of need,” he said.

Mohammed said all the staffers in their kitchen first change their clothes and wash their hands before while entering the kitchen. “The number of staffers has also been halved now as there is not that much pressure of orders in the kitchen.”

“We encourage our staff members to wash their hands at regular intervals and not touch their mouths with the hands. We understand the risks because if one of them gets infected, then it would create a chain reaction among all our staffers, including me,” he added.

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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