China's Food Delivery Drivers are a Lifeline for All of Us!

Source: Financial Times

For the tens of millions of Chinese people quarantined at home by the coronavirus epidemic, food deliveries and the people who prepare and deliver them are essential routes to the outside world.

But many shut-ins want to be sure that while their food is hot, the people providing it are not. In addition to the usual price and other information, many restaurants are also including a reassurance guarantee slip with the temperatures of the cooks, food packagers and courier for every order.

These couriers have become the heroes of China along with the medical professionals, said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group.

The online food retailers have calmed the country down more than anyone, even the government, because they are showing people they can buy food at reasonable prices.

Meituan, the industry leader and Chinas third most valuable publicly listed technology company, gives its couriers a card to pin to the yellow jacket of their uniforms that details their temperature and whether they have conducted the daily disinfecting of their delivery box. Eleme, Alibabas rival service, does the same.

Many restaurants have opted to provide additional information on their own hygiene practices. Yunhaiyao, a popular food chain, says it measures the temperature of the cook, the food packager and the courier for every order. The restaurant writes the data along with the staff members names on a slip of paper.

Its very convenient and fast, we have handheld temperature sensors to check peoples wrists, said a Yunhaiyao employee.

Nayuki, an upmarket tea and dessert chain, goes one step further by separately detailing the temperatures of the tea brewer and bakery chef on the paper slip.

One Beijing-based Eleme delivery worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was still working despite the outbreak in order to support his family, although orders were much lower than before the health crisis.

He received 100 Yuan ($14.30) per day in pay plus 7.5 Yuan per order, a wage that has not changed during the Chinese new year holiday period. Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The impact of the virus on the food delivery market has been mixed, with a likely fall in takeaway delivery and a strong rise in grocery deliveries. Some customers have shifted from eating out to ordering takeaways. But others are opting to buy groceries instead and cook at home. That has led to Beijings Meituan grocery deliveries almost tripling during the Chinese new year holiday period compared to before the outbreak, according to the company.

Office workers who usually order takeaway for lunch are mostly working from home because of the outbreak. Many millennials, who dominate the customer base, have also not returned to their cities of work, and are eating meals at their family homes.

One silver lining has emerged for the couriers from the lockdown: there are now much fewer cars on the roads.

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