Takeaways more popular than food deliveries, customer satisfaction survey shows

SINGAPORE – Takeaways have significantly outpaced deliveries as the preferred method of getting food this year amid constant changes in Covid-19 safe management measures and limits on dining capacities.

Takeaways from restaurants, fast food restaurants, and cafes and coffee houses rose significantly year on year in the third quarter compared with the same period last year, according to the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore survey, whose results were released on Tuesday (Nov 30).

The annual survey by the Institute of Service Excellence (ISE) at Singapore Management University assesses consumer attitudes towards the food and beverage (F&B) and tourism sectors.

A total of 2,600 people were surveyed this year between July and September.

Among the questions, respondents were asked if they dined out, took home or ordered food delivery for their most recent meal.

They were also asked which of the three options they preferred the most for each of three categories of F&B venues – restaurants, fast food restaurants, and cafes and coffee houses.

With regards to their most recent meal, takeaways from all three venue categories rose significantly – to 32. 7 per cent from 25.9 per cent at restaurants; 57.4 per cent from 49.4 per cent at fast food restaurants; and 50.7 per cent from 40.2 per cent at cafes and coffee houses.

In comparison, the proportion of customers dining in fell to 46.4 per cent from 52.8 per cent at restaurants; 21.5 per cent from 27.8 per cent at fast food restaurants; and 35 per cent from 43.8 per cent at cafes and coffee houses.

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Meanwhile, customers ordering through food delivery platforms remained almost similar to that in the previous year, falling slightly to 20.9 per cent from 21.2 per cent at restaurants; 21.1 per cent from 22.7 per cent at fast food restaurants; and 14.2 per cent from 16 per cent at cafes and coffee houses.

ISE head of research and consulting Chen Yongchang said: “The rise in takeaways appears to be in response to the heightened safe management restrictions and concerns over the Covid-19 situation during the survey period.

“While the data indicates the majority of consumers still prefer dine-in when given a choice, takeaway orders are likely to remain elevated for some time.”

Mr Chen suggested that the shift to takeaways could be due to deals and cost-savings on self-pickup, instead of having food delivered, or even the convenience as more people are out and about as the economy opens up.

He said “this is probably a behaviour that can probably be leveraged on”.

He also noted that takeaway orders tend to have better margins for eateries as they cut out the middlemen, such as delivery platforms.

As such, F&B businesses aiming to grow the segment and strengthen their dine-in offerings should smooth out ordering processes for customers in the store instead of focus on delivery orders, he added.

The survey showed that customers of cafes and coffee houses were markedly less satisfied and loyal. This was especially so for those who ordered takeaway – with a notable decline in how they rated attributes such as beverage quality and staff proactiveness.

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The takeaway customers of this venue category also rated the in-store ordering process relatively poorly, compared with customers using food delivery platforms. Dine-in customers said they also had a poorer in-store ordering experience.

Said Mr Chen: “While food quality, quantity, and variety remain key drivers of repeat visits to any F&B establishment… managers should also look into improving their team members’ service delivery.”

On the tourism front, there was a significant shift in the profile of visitors, with results showing a larger proportion of older visitors.

In particular, the proportion of visitors in the 50 to 69 age segment rose to 22.3 per cent this year from 14.2 per cent last year. In contrast, visitors in the 30 to 49 age segment fell to 50.9 per cent from 56.9 per cent.

“The shifting demographic is likely due to the unique circumstance brought about by Covid-19 travel restrictions, with visitors across a more diverse demographic partaking in domestic tourism and visiting places they would not otherwise normally,” said Ms Neeta Lachmandas, executive director of ISE.

“In fact, half of the respondents we interviewed said they had made use of the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers for their visit,” added Ms Lachmandas.

“This might present itself as a market that the industry could tap,” said Mr Chen, who said that according to the survey, this demographic rated their satisfaction level at attractions the lowest.

“It seems that older customers are potentially underserved, and the least satisfied among all the age groups… So if the pattern continues, operators may want to refocus their attractions to cater to this clientele,” he added.

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