“In an effort to avoid crowds, many people are choosing to buy online, pick up in-store, and get delivery. As a food delivery platform, our responsibility is to provide convenience and affordability to the communities we operate in,” says Foodpanda PR executive Marga Lorenza Tulaylay.

Food delivery platforms are facing more challenges by the day, the worst of which is public fear. While delivery services are allowed to operate, some delivery-partners are choosing to stay home to prioritize safety. This has led to supply becoming a challenge during the onset of the lockdown. According to Krhizzy Pasigan, PR manager of Grab Philippines, they made sure to roll out safety and preventive standard operating procedures (SOPs) to make sure their partners and staff are protected and supported.

“We also extended special assistance—in the form of financial and medical support—to drivers who may be placed under government-mandated quarantine. Grab also worked with our merchant-partners to ensure that social distancing is strictly observed at all outlets. Slowly, the number of delivery-partners who go online has recovered. We will make sure that the strict implementation of the safety and preventive SOPs will carry on for as long as there is a threat of the pandemic,” says Pasigan. 

Here are some of the new protocols and safety initiatives food delivery platforms are observing during the crisis:

  • Submission of temperature at least twice a day. (The World Health Organization [WHO] recommends that workers with 37.5 °C or above should stay home)
  • Driver centers becoming sanitation facilities
  • Wearing masks, gloves, and personal protective equipment as necessary
  • Regularly washing hands with soap and water as well as applying hand sanitizer before and after each delivery shift
  • Stapling paper bags and securing the lids of food containers
  • Engaging in contactless delivery (such as opting for online payment, designating drop-off spots at the customer’s home or office and maintaining one meter distance between rider and customer)

Aside from these measures that are currently being observed locally, WHO has released guidelines for transport and delivery:

  • Delivery staff must not leave their vehicles during delivery
  • Before passing items to food workers, drivers should use a hand sanitizer. They should be equipped with alcohol-based sanitizer, disinfectant, and paper towels.
  • Disposable containers and packaging should be used to avoid cleaning of any returns. If reusable containers are needed, hygiene and sanitation protocols must be implemented.
  • Aside from physical distancing, proper hand hygiene is necessary to steer clear of cross-contamination.
  • Personal cleanliness and protective clothing must be maintained as well as frequent disinfection of transport containers. Food should be separated from other goods that may cause contamination.

The volume of customers intending to acquire online food delivery services has likely exceeded the regular number pre-pandemic. According to Tulaylay, what affects the order volume is the availability of food options given that some mall vendors are closed and some vendors in the city have limited operations to prioritize employee safety.

To support the growing demand for delivery services and to help more delivery-partners earn income, food delivery companies have doubled their efforts in supporting more delivery-partners. For their driver-partners whose jobs have been halted by the temporary suspension of transport services, Grab allowed those who have motorbikes and bicycles to temporarily transition to delivery services.

They have also transitioned some of their GrabCars to do delivery services. The process was fast because they had an existing number of drivers and a digital on-boarding process for delivery-riders. On top of their typical delivery-partners, the online delivery platform also opened its doors to more delivery-partners using bicycles, and even those delivering on foot.

Despite the many logistical challenges, food delivery services continuously receive orders and rarely decline customers, according to Grab. Pasigan says that they only need to do so in case of “no-shows” or those who do not claim their orders—who are then automatically banned from the platform. As she sees it, this behavior hurts the balance of their operations. In the event of “no-shows,” their delivery partners are fully reimbursed for the purchase.

As more consumers embrace online services, it is likely that this practice will carry on post-pandemic. The industry needs to continuously come up with innovative ways to acclimate itself to today’s food business landscape such as diversifying its services and protecting the welfare of consumers without sacrificing the experience.