Cover Story: Forget Cooking, Have It Delivered

By S.H. Ong

What do you do if you work and do not have the time to cook, especially when you have school-going children or just are too tied down with other chores in the house? The answer is to have food delivered to your house on a daily basis. It’s a convenient way of putting food on the table.

A quick survey of Ipoh Garden and Canning Garden reveals that a good number of households subscribe to a home food delivery service.

Cooked Meals at Your Doorstep

The caterer usually delivers the food on a motorcycle in tiffin carriers which is the ubiquitous lunch box widely used in Malaysia and other parts of Asia to carry meals from restaurants for consumption at home. Food is delivered to your doorstep at around 11am to 1pm and 4pm to 6pm daily, just in time for those going to school and for dinner.

A typical meal usually consists of three dishes; a soup or two vegetables and a meat or fish dish. The caterer will vary the dishes on alternate days so that you will have a variety of food instead of eating the same old stuff every day. The average minimum cost for a meal for one person is RM200 to RM220 per month and for a couple, about RM350 to RM380, depending on your choice of food and frequency of deliveries. Usually, the food provided is enough for more than two pax. The charges will vary depending on whether you prefer two meat dishes and one vegetable dish over the normal one offered and whether you want food delivered from Mondays to Fridays or from Mondays to Saturdays. The choice is yours, and the caterer is ever willing to negotiate.

There are quite a few home food caterers in town and the rates are more or less the same, offering the same three-dish menus. For those who fancy some exotic food, there are even caterers offering hot and spicy Indian dishes. Here you will get your usual curry dishes all for the same price, as mentioned above or as prearranged.

In India

This method of delivering food to the homes or offices is very popular in India, especially in Mumbai. The trend there has developed into a complex and efficient way of delivering hot lunches/dinners packed in dabbas (tiffin carriers) to office workers and homes from food caterers. The ‘Dabbawallas’ or food caterers will send the packed food via all modes of transportation namely, bicycles, trishaws, motorcycles and even trains to their customers!

In spite of the huge demand for food delivery services there, the number of food wrongly delivered to customers is surprisingly negligible. This shows the effectiveness and efficiency of this service in India.

Convenient and Cost-effective

Mrs Lai, a housewife, who lives with her son in Canning Garden has two school-going grandchildren who come in after school to spend the rest of the day. She caters food for the family, including her daughter and son-in-law who come back from work to pick up the children. “It’s such a hassle to cook these days, as I am getting on in years. My days of going to the market and coming home to cook for my now five grown-up children every day during their early years is in the past. With the cooking taken care of by someone else I can now spend more time serving my church, tending to my garden and looking after my three ‘adopted’ children (dogs),” says the affable lady.

Another subscriber to this service Ms Lam, a retiree from Ipoh Garden South says, “ I’ve been having catered food for almost 23 years. It started way back during my parents’ time in 1996. Since we were all working and didn’t have time to cook, what better way than to come home with your meal all cooked and ready to eat. My parents have since passed on, but I am continuing to have catering for my dinner and have been with the same caterer for the past nine years now. I have few complaints and am quite happy with the food that is supplied.”

A local doctor also has catered food for his live-in maid for the day, as both he and his wife are working. However, she cooks dinner herself for the family when she returns from work in the evening. The maid is more than happy with this service as she has more time to concentrate on household chores.

Many people resort to this service nowadays because both husbands and wives are at work in the day, which leaves very little time for cooking in the evening. Furthermore, one has to go to the market to buy the raw materials, prepare the ingredients then cook the food. After that, there is the big clean-up before you even sit down to eat. Don’t forget there’s another round of cleaning after the meal is done. With busy lifestyles these days, people find it more convenient to cater than cook for themselves. And with the ever-rising cost of food and ingredients, it would seem that this is a more cost-effective way of having your meals at home.

An Alternative for Young Adults

The latest trend among the new generation is ordering food online and having them delivered to your homes or offices. This method is just as convenient as one only has to place an order by telephone or e-mail and eat in the comfort of one’s own home. Although there is a service charge involved in this service, it seems to be catching on and the extra cost is negligible and still affordable, say the youngsters. FoodPanda and Runnermyrun in Ipoh seem to be doing very well in this trade and you can see their motorcycles zooming all over town delivering food to their customers.

Looks like the trend for this fast-food delivery services started by KFC, McDonald’s, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Marry Brown and others is fast catching on with our new generation. Will this new trend of home food-delivery services pose a threat to the traditional tiffin carrier business or is it a threat at all?

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