Online food delivery platforms strive to survive in post-pandemic era

Online food delivery platforms strive to survive in post-pandemic era


The COVID pandemic was a boon for the stay-at-home economy, fueling growth for sectors like home entertainment, telecommunications and food delivery. But with COVID now a distant memory, online meal delivery platforms have had to adapt to survive. Although some market players have announced losses and layoffs, other delivery businesses have pivoted and expanded their services. Food delivery is seen as part of the “lazy economy,” but running such a service and turning a profit is anything but effortless. Today in our Sunday special report, we peek behind the scenes at what makes the industry tick.

Carrying boxes in pink, green, orange, and blue, an army of scooters threads through traffic and zips through the alleys of Taiwan. Food deliverers have become an inconspicuous element of everyday life.

One user of their services is Mr. Hsu. He says that in his family, the grandparents look after the children during the day, leaving no time to cook square meals. Ordering delivery has been the solution to that problem.

Mr. Hsu
Working father
We have three generations under one roof, old and young, and it’s the summer break now. My wife and I both work, and we sometimes have to do overtime, which means we get back home late. For older people, taking care of the kids is hard work. Adding cooking to the equation would be impossible. So, we order food on delivery platforms. It’s convenient and eliminates the need to spend time and energy cooking. It’s also safe.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in April 2019, about 43% of Taiwanese restaurants offered some form of delivery service. After the start of the COVID pandemic, the figure shot up to 56% in April 2020. And after the Taiwan CDC imposed Level 3 epidemic restrictions and banned dining in at restaurants, demand for food delivery skyrocketed. By June 2021, 67% of businesses were offering delivery.

Hu Tzu-li
Market Intelligence and Consulting Institute
I think there have been several key factors. First is digital literacy, or rather, how people have developed the habit of using mobile services like this. It’s become very common to use such services. The second factor has to do with the consumers of these delivery services. Over the past two or three years of COVID, they’ve gotten accustomed to ordering food delivery.

After the easing of COVID restrictions in 2022, the percentage of restaurants offering delivery fell to 64%. Though it was a drop of just 3 percentage points, delivery platforms saw the writing on the wall. To keep the profits coming, they had to step up their game.

Beep after beep, the employee scans items ordered by a customer and puts them in the cart. He marches through the aisles looking for drinks, cookies, and even fresh produce and meat. He bags the items and places them on a shelf to be collected by a delivery driver.

These are the workings of a virtual supermarket in Taipei’s Neihu District. Here, customers can’t just pop in to browse items, as all the goods here are exclusively for online ordering. Why is it that meal delivery platforms are also shipping fresh produce and household items? The main reason is that after COVID restrictions were lifted, people went back to restaurants, paring demand for home delivered meals.

Emma Kuo
Communications head of online delivery platform
After the pandemic, the growth in demand for delivery services slowed down globally. Amid the sluggishness, we had to diversify our services, so that consumers would stay with us and continue to use our platform. So we got involved in helping out with all aspects of daily life. We don’t just deliver food. Now we also do fresh produce and daily necessities.

Starting 2022, several online delivery platforms around the world announced layoffs and losses amid high operating costs. One of them was the U.S.’ largest food delivery company, DoorDash, which cut more than 1,200 corporate jobs. Over in Japan, leading delivery platform Demae-can has posted losses since 2022, after being in the business for more than 20 years.

The food delivery market has been booming for years, but the industry has a high entry threshold. Startups have to amass enough capital to launch, on top of the costs of designing an online platform, investing in advertising, and training delivery drivers.

In addition, food delivery platforms have to factor in a third party in their business model: the deliverers themselves. Paying them is no small expense.

Roick Feng
Digital Economy Association, Taiwan
At the end of the day, the digital economy, the sharing economy and the gig economy are all platform economies. They are all do the same thing. They connect supply and demand across multiple parties through digital technologies.

Delivery platforms do not own brick-and-mortar shops. Instead, they rely fully on digital applications, which come with significant expenses in software development and maintenance.

Cheng Li-hung
Commerce Development Research Institute
The number of users grows and grows, and the platform’s features have to improve constantly. That requires a team of people to keep the system running. You can imagine the scale of these staffing and maintenance costs.

In addition, platform operators invest large sums of money into ads to boost exposure and keep orders coming for both deliverers and restaurants.

Cheng Li-hung
Commerce Development Research Institute
They put a lot of effort into advertising to increase exposure, so that when consumers want to order a meal, they’ll think of the platform. Take DoorDash as an example. In the third quarter of 2022, they spent 35% of their revenue in advertising.

Emma Kuo
Communications head of online delivery platform
As a platform without brick-and-mortar outlets, it is more important for us to get consumers to be aware of us and to remember us. We have to stay up-to-date and fresh so that consumers consider us when making a decision. We aim to be the top choice in the minds of consumers.

This pasta shop in New Taipei’s Luzhou District has a floor space of barely 5 ping, none of which is dedicated to dining tables. For more than 20 years, this joint has provided takeout only, and most of its customers lived within a kilometer from the shop. Its third-generation owner, Hsu Yu-ling徐瑜伶, decided to partner with a delivery platform in hopes that going online would bring in more young customers.

Hsu Yu-ling
Pasta shop owner
After all, younger people might not feel like going out for a meal. And when it rains, nobody really wants to head out to buy things. So we partnered with a delivery platform, to boost revenue a little when it’s rainy and things like that.

And it’s not just restaurants benefiting from delivery platforms. Working as a delivery driver has a low entry threshold, making it a good option for unemployed people or workers on furlough looking to boost their income.

Lee Wen-yao, 52, is a baker. He used to have a stable income until the pandemic hit his business hard. To make ends meet, he decided to start working part time as a delivery person.

Lee Wen-yao
Food deliverer
During the Level 3 COVID restrictions, we had no business. I was under a lot of pressure. Fortunately, my friend told me about becoming a food deliverer and I decided to give it a go.

It was originally just a side gig. But eventually, Lee got so proficient at food delivery that it became his full-time job.

Lee Wen-yao
Food deliverer
Now, my main job is food delivery, and baking is just part-time. If I’m serious about it, I can get NT$40,000 to NT$50,000 or more in one month. And as a deliverer, I get to meet people from many different shops, as well as customers and business partners. Sometimes I’ll give them some of my own handmade wafer rolls to try. If they like them, they even place orders to buy some from me.

Nowadays, food delivery platforms are teaming up with supermarkets and big-box retailers to set up virtual supermarkets. There are already 36 virtual supermarkets in Taiwan. Suppliers, customers and deliverers all rely on the same digital platform. Designing an attractive and user-friendly interface is key, as becoming the first choice for consumers is the key to turning a profit.

Roick Feng
Digital Economy Association, Taiwan
This industry is treacherous and ever-changing. Consumers have no brand loyalty and may switch to a different platform at any time. How can you let consumers get to know about you? And with so many platforms, why should they choose you? After all, they have to download your app on their phones and add their credit card details to it. You also need to find suppliers. You need to partner up with restaurants, shops and delivery people. All these elements are indispensable to keeping the platform running smoothly.

Delivery platforms have sometimes been dismissed as part of the “lazy economy.” But this kind of digital venture is an important emerging industry that draws on elements from the sharing economy.

Emma Kuo
Communications head of online delivery platform
We’re all in the same boat, working together to grow the platform economy, be it in scope, in vision, or its sustainability.

Nowadays, ordering food on a delivery platform is something many of us take for granted. But to keep this convenient industry running, operators have the monumental task of coordinating people across many sectors to ensure everyone ends up winning.

For more Taiwan news, tune in:
Sun to Fri at 9:30 pm on Channel 152
Tue to Sat at 1 am on Channel 53






[[上班族 許先生]]


[[資策會產業情報研究所分析師 胡自立]]


「嗶」聲響起,客人下訂單,店員推著推車,沿著貨架 開始撿貨,飲料、餅乾、生鮮肉品應有盡有,打包裝袋放到架上,等一下外送員就會來取貨。


[[外送平台公共事務協理 郭昕宜]]




[[台灣數位平台經濟協會監事/律師 馮昌國]]


[[商業發展研究院中部辦公室主任 程麗弘]]


[[商業發展研究院中部辦公室主任 程麗弘]]

[[外送平台公共事務協理 郭昕宜]]

這間位於蘆洲的義大利麵店,占地不到五坪 沒有內用座位,只賣外帶客,因此開店20多年來,客群大多以住在附近,一公里內的民眾為主。然而自從第三代徐瑜伶接手之後,她開始和外送平台合作,讓自家的店在外送平台上,可以被更多年輕消費者看見。

[[義大利麵店老闆 徐瑜伶]]



[[外送員 李文耀]]


[[外送員 李文耀]]
“現在主要是以外送為主要工作,烘焙為兼職,認真跑一個月,大概四 五萬元跑不掉,從做外送員的時候,我可以接觸很多店家,還有客戶消費者,還有一些工作的夥伴,我有時候碰到他們,都會給他們吃我的手工蛋捲,好吃的話他們就會跟我訂”


[[台灣數位平台經濟協會監事/律師 馮昌國]]


[[外送平台公共事務協理 郭昕宜]]



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