Feeding city folks via food apps

Poovenraj Kanagaraj

Hunger pangs are being satisfied these days by innovative ways with the growth of food delivery applications, enabled by rising smartphone users and increased data as urbanisation consumes Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Hunger pangs are being satisfied these days by innovative ways with the growth of food delivery applications, enabled by rising smartphone users and increased data as urbanisation consumes Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

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Since 2012, the food delivery app landscape has developed rapidly with homegrown brands such as YourPhnomPenh.com and Meal Temple debuting in Phnom Penh. Now, there are some six food delivery apps including Nham24 and newcomer Muuve, that cover these cities, offering food choices from over 800 partner restaurants while some nine other companies eye the market.

Both restaurant operators and food delivery app founders recognise the increasing demand among Cambodians for food to be sent to their doorstep. The food delivery landscape is no longer dominated by fast food outlets such as US-origin KFC and Domino’s Pizza that are known to provide such services.

It is common to see food being despatched in the city by employees on motorcycle. The appetite for online food orders is prevalent despite the presence of street foodstalls that are open till late.

Observers say widespread technology usage among Cambodians is the main driver behind the lifestyle of convenience. The concept of food delivery is more attractive amid traffic congestion and bad weather as it allows customers to order from the comforts of the home or office.

Muuve founder Phanith Phan says he is aware of entering a competitive market where some apps already boast a steady clientele. Launched last September, the app has some 25,000 users in the city. It has partnered with over 180 restaurants in the city.

“People are no longer ordering food via phones anymore,” says Phan, who is also Muuve’s chief executive officer. Its business developer Panhatevy Choun says demand for food delivery is growing as a result of busy lifestyles.

“Our analysis shows that a majority of users are office workers and students. We believe that students choose to order food through delivery apps as they have access to a variety of food,” Choun says. In terms of pricing, Phan says users spend an average of $15 to $20 per order but this amount is expected to increase in time.

SwissFoodAsia, Phnom Penh’s only restaurant which offers 24-hour delivery service has seen a rise in Khmer clientele, says founder David Mueller, adding that most of the customers are from the central part of Phnom Penh.

“However, we are also receiving orders from people staying in Toul Tom Poung and BKK3, probably due to high traffic congestion. We find that locations play an important role in boosting sales,” Mueller says.

He set up the delivery service for his restaurant four years after launching in Phnom Penh. Since then, the food delivery service landscape has grown tremendously with more players entering the field.

Mueller contends that competition is affecting his business due to the minimal start-up cost forked out by other services compared to his.

However, running a 24-hour business has benefitted him because he get to monopolise orders that are made between midnight and 3am. “We hope to improve customer service which is only available via social media and our website by working with an Indian company to start our own food delivery app early June,” he says.

Meanwhile, to set itself apart from the others, Muuve resolved issues plaguing its competitors’ apps by simplifying the pricing system process, and identifying correct locations. “We use geo-location which allows users to pin their location but our competitors’ apps do not allow users to do that. This leads to extra charges due to the difference of location,” he adds.

In terms of revenue, Mueller says 50 percent comes from food delivered to people who order via the restaurant’s social media page. The remaining 50 percent is contributed by dine-in customers and orders that come through delivery apps.

“However, revenue from the delivery service is seasonal. When expatriates leave Phnom Penh for holidays, we see a dip in orders. It is like that every year,” he says.

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