Covid spurs F&B sector’s digital move
Eateries leveraged on digital tools to operate more efficiently and effectively
Hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, this Peranakan eatery had to shut two of its six outlets. Both were located in the central business district, where footfall had dropped drastically.
That was when the mode of operation changed for the family-business HarriAnns Nonya Table, its chief executive Alan Tan told The New Paper.
"We had a traditional mindset that people would prefer eating... in the restaurant," he said.
Business at all outlets had been brisk but "Covid-19 was a real game changer".
The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption in the food and beverage sector as companies leverage on digital tools to operate more efficiently and effectively, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said during a visit to Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant yesterday.
HarriAnns began working on its website, previously active only during Chinese New Year.
Customers can now place orders for delivery and self pickup any time.
Online sales and new ready-to-cook items such as nonya laksa paste and fish broth - created after it noticed that customers were working from home - have boosted outlet sales in returning business to almost 80 per cent of pre-Covid-19 level.
Mr Tan is optimistic about what lies ahead. He said: "We are looking to invest further in technology to boost production and productivity. I believe when we start returning to normal, things might be better than pre-Covid."
Mr Chan said yesterday that the percentage of online F&B sales out of total industry sales had increased from 9.8 per cent in January to 20.4 per cent by September.
Swee Choon Tim Sum had started providing delivery services in 2018, but now delivery sales contribute between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of its monthly revenue compared with less than 1 per cent before.
Its director, Mr Ernest Ting, told TNP that to make the menu more delivery-friendly, customers now have the option to buy sets and bento boxes from the online menu.
During the pandemic, it used delivery data history to map out the high traffic zones. Noting that many orders came from the Tampines area, it started a cloud kitchen in the area last week and plans to open two more, one in the north and one in the west.
By sharing the same space with other restaurants, it is able to reduce cost and reach out to more customers.
"The pandemic gave us time to take a step back and think of how we should plan our business model to adapt to the changing times and culture," Mr Ting said.
Facts and figures
WHAT IT IS
The food service sector comprises establishments from foodcourts and coffee shops to cafes, snack bars and restaurants. Food caterers and canteens are also included.
NUMBER OF WORKERS
199,300 or 5.5% of total workforce
1.1% of Singapore's gross domestic product
Total food and beverage sales fell by 29.9% in September, compared with the same month last year. Sales in September were also down 1.2% from August this year.