Bring down the delivery times on food orders to 15 minutes - that's what Jeremy Doutte, Vice-President - UAE at talabat, is setting sights on. The order-and-delivery portal has already brought down the time from 40 minutes to 28 minutes last year. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The food order-and-delivery portal Talabat would sign on up to 30,000 bike riders in the UAE if that meant bringing down delivery times to about 15 minutes or so. Getting to that sort of timing from the moment the order is placed will represent the round of super-charged growth for the F&B delivery market in the UAE.

Last year, online delivery within the F&B sector grew by more than 250 per cent to over $412 million and could grow to $619 million by 2025, according to some recent updates from Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. But to keep the sort of growth motoring along, delivery times need to be cut down even further, according to the top official at talabat, which is owned by Germany’s Delivery Hero. (talabat UAE also owns Zomato's local operations, which it acquired in 2019.)

“The future is about instant gratification, even in F&B. Many may enjoy cooking, but some don’t. They don’t want to get into something time-consuming as cooking or buying groceries. These are the people who want to spend less time in the kitchen" - Jeremy Doutte, Vice-President - UAE, talabat

“For a lot of these consumers, speed of delivery is more important than price. By year-end, if we could get to 30,000 drivers in the UAE, we will have brought down delivery times. But at this stage, we are not even sure we will get to that [rider] numbers.” (The various restrictions still in place on flights from key sourcing markets such as India and Pakistan are a factor in the slow build up of the fleet riders.)

Red More

Drop the time

talabat had brought down average delivery times on F&B orders from 40 minutes on average in 2018-19 to 28 minutes last year. On the grocery side, the operator has already launched a ‘q-service’.

Restaurant alliances

Last year, the portal had rolled out multiple incentives to restaurant operators – numbering 15,000 – after the pandemic struck and the restaurant business became one of the first to take a huge hit. Doutte said commission payment settlements with restaurant partners were done twice a week as opposed to once a week, to help them with cashflow. Fees were waived and commissions restructured last year.

This had been a point of conflict between restaurant operators and food delivery aggregators through the better part of last year. Some restaurants in Dubai came together and launched their own food order-and-delivery apps.

On whether further changes were afoot on its deal structure with restaurant partners, Doutte did not provide any details. It is not known whether the 2020 incentives remain in place.

Going bigger on kitchens

Another area where talabat expects to go big and wide is in ‘cloud kitchens’, offsite industrial type places where food is prepared and provided for restaurant brands, both brick-and-mortar as well as virtual ones. The company currently has seven in the UAE and will be adding another 12 in the country.

Cloud/dark kitchen concepts in the UAE and Gulf are raking in mega funds from investors. Recently, Kitopi, one of the biggest names in the business, pulled in investors including Japan’s Softbank, for its latest funding round.

According to talabat, each cloud kitchen addition adds up to 20 new jobs getting created directly and another three linked to the venture.